Rock Climbing in Guernsey

By Bill Exley

. Our Rock-Climbing days during the 1950's, was mainly done around the rugged South coast of Guernseys' high Granite Cliffs with all grades of difficulty this was safe, solid climbing. I use the term 'Rock Climbing' casually, as it was more like Coast Line 'Traversing' or Rock 'Scrambling' , ( but todays' term - 09/10/2022 - now Coasteering ) , across Gullies or up and bypass them. Our term between us, as teenagers was the Guernsey term, 'Mooching', to take a stroll.

We never said at any point, standing at the base of a sheer cliff 'we will climb this one today' that would have been lunacy without training and correct safety climbing aids. (common sense). Guernsey climbing clubs will follow all safety procedures, with strict adherence at all times.

One day at La Jaonnet Bay we did see two men scale the high sheer cliff face to the top, but they did use climbing tackle. - Another Sunday afternoon, a small boat came into the rocky bay, with about a dozen soldiers and they scaled the same cliff in a controlled manner, probably a Commando or S.A.S training exercise ? , or even the Elizabeth College cadets, under supervision I have been told.

Our Climbing, or premeditated Scrambling jaunts did include the 'Dog and Lion' rocks, the Dog Rock of the pair at Moulin Huet Bay, a common view to locals, is only accessible at Low Spring tides, so your time to get across to it , climb it and return being very limited .

It was no easy climb as I had done it a few times, the ascent of this 60 to 80ft mini 'Old Man of Hoy' in Scotland , was taken in a Lt to Rt Corkscrew route , and up around the back. The second time we did it we left our names in a Tobaco Tin , in a plastic bag, on the summit of only a few square feet.

The Dog & Lion rocks at Moulin Huet Bay, Guernsey - (Photo : courtesy of Bill Hill)

It was a truly memorable part of my life with swiming , some long distance, starting off and returning back to La Vallette Gents' Pool. This is one of four tidal- pools built in Victorian times c1865 using the local Guernsey Granite. In order of approach, the Gentlemens' pool, Horseshoe pool small and open ended, Ladies' pool , larger with diving boards , then a smaller Childrens' pool, with a Sandy - fine Gravel beach to play in, going out to a depth of only 5 to 6 feet deep. - So here strict Victorian modesty rules were applied.

We were in groups swimming along the coast line and back, but always within 100yds of the rocks as a 'safety- net', or a breather, but this was never used as I recall. We often undertook a double Castle Cornet swim of apprx. one mile, on a whim, we were so at home in the sea from an early age. I did the Annual 'Castle Swim' in the Sept. of 1952, '53 and 1954, the icy sea is one degree or so 'warmer' in the Autumn. (?) . - I had a potential 'Herm Swim' at the back of my mind, see more refs to the Herm Swim in the 'Ghost of Theo's Wreck' link below.

We used to all charge up 5 to 6 flights of steps, near the last pool at La Vallette, in a Cul de Sac, to a local headland site called ' Fort George', a left over from the 2nd World War and German Occupation. It is now the edge of a prestigious site for luxury houses with sea views. We worked our way around the coast regardless of tides, quickly navigating the gullies and rocks, up as far as Fermain Bay.

Here the last Challenge we did was a quick climb of Fermain Bay beach wall, about 20ft high built in Victoian times , using huge blocks of the local Guernsey Granite in different sizes . A unique Fire Place can be hand crafted to your specifications, using the many shades of Granite, Greys, Deep Blues and different shades of Greens in a linear or Jigsaw fashion, so the finished product is very pleasing to the eye, with a nice mantlepiece in Hardwood or Stone.

Femain Bay is in the news most Summer seasons, amongst other spots, for 'Cliff Face Rescues', for stranded climbers (visitors) who take on dangerous climbs , then become trapped, freeze and unable to move up or down . There is a fully trained team of people who have to do a cliff top descent to do a rescue, being made up of competent Police, Fire Brigadr or the St Johns' Ambulance employees. ( I surmise, I never asked them ) - or even a 'call out' including highly skilled Rock Climbers from the local clubs.

For our wall climb there was a nice beach of shingle pebbles to land on, many feet deep if we ran out of a hold. This took us about 15 mins and I remember that David Kreckeler was the most adept at this type of 'finger tip' climbing. We usually had a bemused audience of Visitors watching us.

To finalise my memories on the Scouting subject at this time between 1949 - mid 50's , Billy Hill and my cousin David Kreckeler both achieved the highest award in the Scouting World after much hard work and dedication, to gain the Qeens' Scouting Certificate and a large oval badge to show what you had passed. We had many camping days in Guernsey and a 3 weeks camp on Sark where we joined up at a Jamboree at a large camp site of French and Canadian Scouts, we were well looked after.

. In the day time it was swimming and Snorkelling off the many deep water spots. Sark is another quiet world, tucked away 9 miles off Guernsey behind Herm Island. On Sark try and find the Adonis and Venus Pools, large natural Rock Pools big enough to dive and swim in ,. with care that is. It was a nice part of my life as we had no time to get into trouble, petty crime or Drugs. You used your imagination to join in with, Swimming, (club or leisure) ,Table Tennis, Badmington, Footbal, Cricket, Athletics, Art Classes and the many 'free' local Youth Clubs everywhere .

. I had a Jam-jar 'collecting' round' every Sat. morning for 3 to 4 hours, then deliver them down to the local Jam Making factory in St Peter Port. I got so much / per dozen for the small or large jars. They were Re Cycled and I had 10 to 15 shillings 'Old Money (50 to75p) equiv to 3/4 of my weeks' wage late in life , of 25/- (or £1-25p) - per Wk. of 40 hrs. c1952/53 . Then a G.P.O. 'telegram delivery-boy' with an arm band on, astride a heavy Post Office cycle, delivering anywhere in Guernsey - over the Easter and Christmas periods. There were no Computers or E Mails at this time. - Enjoy the swims. ! - * - 14th Aug 2022 / Mr Blex

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Last revision made by Bill Exley on - / - 9th Oct - 2022

For Billy Hill, David Kreckeler, John Lihou (Lou) - his wife Pat who still lives in Freeport, Grand Bahama - ( Dec 2021 )

and Friends of Nigel Froome, see my Link to Theo's Wreck

1st. Guernsey Sea Scouts by Bill Hill - * - The Ghost of Theo's Wreck, or Back to Index Page