Earlier this month it was Liberation Day and I had full intentions of avoiding the crowd of people gathered in town. Instead I chose to partake in Visit Guernsey’s Tasty Walk #10: Occupation Memories and Smugglers Tales, which is a self-guided walk through the Forest parish. Unfortunately it rained cats and dogs on Liberation Day so I delayed the walk until this bank holiday weekend. Accompanied by two trusty accomplices we spent the afternoon rambling through the Forest. Despite my comrades being Guernsey born, they were pleasantly surprised to discover an area of Guernsey that was new to them and full of interesting sights.
The walk starts off at Forest Parish Church and there is a small amount of information in the guidebook, and a little more available if you play the Audio guide (but may need data coverage as it is not a download but streamed from the Visit Guernsey website. (A download might be useful for those who don’t use data while roaming.) We tried to use our QR reader to access additional information from the QR code in the guidebook but we couldn’t get it to work. We later discovered that the QR link just brought up an electronic version of the guidebook — I think it would have been better to provide additional information about sights on the walk for those that were interested to learn more. I will expand on this in today’s post.
Skipping a few interest points we arrive at Les Varioufs – an extremely picturesque hamlet of houses on the way to Le Gouffre. This was the only mention of smugglers on the tour and there wasn’t much provided on this topic. I would like to have known more – what were they smuggling? Did any of them get caught? What did the local people think? Where did they store their smuggled goods? Who were they? And being a house-geek, I would love to know more about the cottages in the area.
Continuing on we passed wildflowers a plenty and I somehow convinced my companions to craft me a wilderness crown. Perhaps begruding at first, they quickly latched onto the idea and by the time I arrived at the restaurant I was carrying nearly every blossoming species of spring flower in my hair on top of a few fronds of fern and some Hawthorn blossoms.
Whilst traipsing through this area we also spotted the first Hedge Veg stall of our walk, this one selling posh chutneys. It was located on the Rue des Fontenelles just outside the greenhouses close to the road named Le Gouffre. May I recommend the Mexican Pickle?
There are a few food spots identified near the Tasty Walks route (the whole point behind the name Tasty Walks), and our arrival at the road to Le Gouffre Restaurant was timely as we were all borderline haingry at this stage. (Walkers please note that Le Gouffre does not serve lunch after 2pm and cream tea is only available til 3pm – we snuck in just in time to catch a Guernsey cream tea). [suggestion – if you stop at Le Gouffre pay a visit to the Cliff Top Shop as it always has something interesting – I have my eye on the ‘paint your own Russian nesting dolls’ kit and the mulberry scented Candle.]
As we left the Gouffre we wound our way through more lanes towards the next stop – a blue plaque dedicated to Denys Corbet. The guidebook did not say much about him, but I have some suggestions to make this more engaging. Can you tell us more about his childhood home? When was it built, what uses has it had, what style of build, etc? Was it a farmhouse? What did they farm? I noticed some stone steps which I know were used for horsemen – tell us about these features, perhaps? Could the audioguide quote a short piece of some of Denys’ poetry? The blue plaque was slightly disappointing but to make up for it there was a hedge veg stall across the road where we bought some guernsey potatoes for dinner, and there were some little pigs in the same field!
Round the next bend is quite possibly the most interesting area of the walk but there is nothing noted in the itinerary about this hamlet. For those of you intending to take this walk, make note of the Snail House (officially named L’Escargot) at Les Bigards. I am not a huge fan of contemporary architecture but this is really something! Not to be outdone, the surrounding homes are equally impressive, if not a bit more traditional.
As we walked down the road a man noticed me taking photos of a granite cottage and told me that I was lucky that the witch who once lived there did not see me, otherwise she would have cursed me by filling my hair with fleas. He went on to explain that he and his wife had researched the history of his house and the adjoining cottage and the woman living in the neighbouring house was known as a witch and frequently tormented the local children when she caught them playing in her douit by riddling their hair with fleas. He also told us that this particular valley is home to countless owls (and other wildlife) that come out at twilight. This would be such an interesting point to add to the official tour. And the hedge veg is out of this world! Visit Guernsey take note!
The last Point Of Interest was in relation to a National Trust of Guernsey property called Esperanza. The photo in the guidebook was actually a photo of Les Caches Farm, another NTG property that has been restored recently amd located across the road from Esperanza. This confused us, particularly as it was located in a slightly different location on the map than in real life. I am not sure why this has happened, whether it is because Visit Guernsey wanted to highlight both properties by combining the name of one property with the photo of the other? I think this needs to be amended in the next printing (unless I have an older copy of the book and it has already been done). If you plan on doing this walk perhaps visit the National Trust of Guernsey website first to arrive armed with information on these properties.
Overall we thought the route devised by Visit Guernsey was very well done. It hits the well-known tourist spots on the trail and takes the walker through a very sympathetic (aka gorgeous) region, with lush valleys and so many beautiful granite cottages. The map inside the guidebook is perhaps not as clear as it could be – it might need to be a bit bigger or detailed. We had to make use of our phones to make sure we were on the right road, and in Les Varioufs there is a cross roads that really toyed with my sense of direction. As I have mentioned above, I am of the view that more points of interest are needed as well as more information about each POI. I think the concept is spot on but this walk needs to be further developed. This was my first Tasty Walk so I cannot comment on whether this is a general theme across all the walks (I see more reviews in our future, readers!)
The Tasty Walks guidebook (free, available at the Tourist Info Centre and other attractions around the island) suggested that the walk will take between 1.5 – 2 hours, longer if you stop to visit the German Occupation Museum (the only Occupation reference along the way) or for food. We stopped at Le Gouffre Restaurant and the Cliff Top Shop for maybe 45 minutes and did a bit of explorifying off the marked track along the way so our adventure took longer than the suggested time. We estimate that we started the walk at 130pm and arrived back to our car at 530pm. I would absolutely recommend it for scenic purposes, but maybe not if you are seeking a lot of information about the area. It made for a lovely excursion but I was pleased to return to the car at the end as ’twas a long but enjoyable day!
Have you been on any Tasty Walks? What was your impression and can you recommend my next Tasty Walk adventure?