.The island is only nine miles by five but a great number of leafy byways are contained in its vales and hills. They are ideal for a family cycling holiday and a 'green lane’ scheme means that there are roads where a 15 mph speed limit applies and walkers, cyclists and horse riders have priority over the car.
Several hundred or so bikes that are available for hire. I tried one and was pleasantly surprised to see how far cycle technology has advanced since the days when the schoolboys pride and joy was the old Raleigh bike with the three speed Strumy Archer gears.
Now controls that would not seem out of place on a motorbike gave me access to fifteen gears and genuinely took most of the effort out of the hills. It was all surprisingly easy and following the special cycle signs we passed from parish to parish watched my small jersey cows with moist brown eyes
We found quiet countryside and places where the gardens were huge. One rather grand dwelling boasted a pond with a rowing boat, another it’s flock of pink flamingos.
I could almost smell the money amid the flowers. The islands economy is based on a prosperous mix of tourism, off-shore banking and flowers.
It was fun exploring the island and we made our first stop what at first seemed like an old estate but turned out to be the Hamptonne Country Museum. ( It is also on the local bus route.) Ducks and hens scratched around as a lady in period costume made an excellent job of telling us what life was like three hundred years ago. She had a wonderful sense of humour and transported us most effectively back over the centuries.
It was the home of Laurens Hamptonne who was Vicompte of the Island back in back in 1640. The grounds, made an excellent place for a picnic stop and we enjoyed ours amid the rabbits and the chickens.
You can of course explore on your own but there are free cycle tours with knowledgeable guides that leave Sy Helier’s Liberation Square most mornings at 10 am.
Tip: get there early they are limited to twenty people.
The focal point of Liberation Square, is an impressive statue or a group of islanders reaching up grasping a British flag waving it free in the wind and there a number of museums on the island that deal with the German Occupation in World War Two.
You find lots of students, who are on the island to improve their English.
Many are Scandinavian. The TV series Bergerac is now showing in the Scandinavian countries so now many Swedes visit the islands and mingle with the day-trippers who come from France.
I wandered down King Street, a long busy pedestrianised shopping avenue where the where the prices are duty free and then explored a massive and colourful flower and vegetable market, where you can order flowers to be sent by air.
Down at the harbour where you can catch a fast boat to France, The Maritime Museum turned out to be one of those 'must see' attractions with lots of hands on gadgets. Just like the kids around me I enjoyed clambering on to the decks, tapping out Morse code, and generally learning about Jersey’s connection with fishing and seafaring.
The bus routes fan out like spokes from St Hellier and you can usually walk to a point where you could pick up another one back to town.
There are some beautiful bays around Jersey’s fifty-mile coastline and the change in the size of the beaches can be most dramatic. The fall of the tide can be up to forty feet and that uncovers a lot of sand. In the morning you see what direction the wind is blowing and choose your bay accordingly.
We headed towards the north and as we mingled with the people who came off the number nine bus close to the cliff tops at Plemont a kestrel hunting its pray hovered motionless in the sky. A cliff path led towards Greve de Lecq. The stone sign read "two miles". It might have been two miles as the crow flies but that bird sure never walked! The path, with its magnificent views had its ups and downs and we seemed to climb a good few hundred feet en-route. We passed beautiful and sometimes rare wild flowers and were grateful for the knowledge that was passed on by a guide from the States of Jersey Environmental Unit.
We heard tales of the islands history and the days when privateers (pirates licensed by the King) would plunder the French ships that their lookouts spotted sailing out from Cherbourg. The exercise was good and well worth it and the pint, when we reached the bar at the back of the beach at Greve de Lecq, was one of the most welcome!
It was a warm summer’s day and every street name that we cycled past was in French and yet from village green to spired church it all felt decidedly English, yet were in Jersey the most southerly of the Channel Islands and only fourteen miles from the coast of France.
Jersey Bike and Beauty
The highlight of my visit was a visit to Jersey Zoo. It began as the first ever conservation-themed zoo. 60 years later, Gerald Durrell’s animal haven is the natural place to discover some of the world’s most incredible creatures.
Whether you’re after fun, tranquillity, knowledge or a place to soak up the sunshine, this stunning 32-acre park with valleys, woodland and some of the world’s rarest animals is the perfect chance to experience ‘the jewel in Jersey’s crown’. You can relax and stay a while or see the best bits in under two hours.
The zoo is situated four miles north of St. Helier, in the Parish of Trinity. You can reach the zoo by car on the B31, by public bus or by taking cycle routes 3a, 1 or 1b.
Report by Allan Rogers