Winter Swimming in Jersey
On the north coast of the island is this small but very beautiful bay, where swimmers can indulge themselves in the quietude that exemplifies winter, amid the rocky, cove-ridden coastline, with a clear view to the painted point of ‘White Rock’ to the east. When visibility is good, the turbines of several wind farms can be seen, as well as the coast of France from Portbail north to Flamanville. Between them are the tiny houses perched on Les Ecrehous. in most conditions, it is possible to swim at ‘Bouley’, whether directly from the pebbly beach, from the slip, or from steps on the pier. As with Greve, the seafloor quickly falls away into deeper water, tidal currents flow strongly past here and it is not recommended to swim out past the pier head. The safest area is within the bay and inside the outer mooring buoys.
In contrast to the wide expanses of sandy and rocky beaches exposed at low tide on the south coast, is the rugged north of the island, sheltered from the southerly and easterly winds, where high cliffs fall into deeper water, and beaches are best accessed by following tree-lined valleys to the coast. Greve de Lecq is a hamlet, nestled at the bottom of two valleys and surrounded on three sides by towering cliffs, and a place where fishermen sometimes give spectacular displays of seamanship, as they manoeuvre their boats in and out of the water. Care needs to be taken when swimming from this beach, as strong currents flow close to the shore at low tide, rip currents form when the surf is up and as tempting as it may be to swim out into the wider bay, it is not recommended. The coarse texture and orangey-red colour of the sand at ‘Greve’, as it is known locally is testament to the granitic geology of the area, and the steeply sloping beach indicates that the water here gets deep quickly. When the tide is up and the wind is howling from the south, this bay can be a haven of calm, and provides an alternative view of this scenic location.
This is probably the most picturesque bays in Jersey. A tiny fishing village on the north coast, tucked away and sheltered from all but northerly and nor’easterly winds, the beach is mostly sandy when the tide is up, and the pier provides shelter for boats that overwinter at their moorings. There is a slipway on the beach and also steps on the pier, and getting wet here is best done around high tide, and inside the harbour, as there is a reef, indicated by breaking swell, which extends along the beach to the east and out to the channel marker just past the pier head. Another favourite with locals, who can step from their front doors into the ocean, and there is the added bonus of having our ‘national treasure’ based at the harbour. The Hungry Man is a tiny café, not dissimilar to several other beach huts along the pier, however what makes this place stand out, is that it is open most days of the year, the food is fantastic and their hot drinks, particularly their hot chocolate with everything is a marvel made with cream and stacked with mini marshmallows. Perfect post-swim fodder for chilly dippers.
Protected by the land, from the westerly winds, this swimming spot is tucked into the shadow of The Fisherman’s Chapel, under the high wall of St Brelade’s Church. With a view across the whole bay, to Ouaisne and the imposing headlands below Portelet Common, this swim is most enjoyable when the tide is high, thus shortening the dash back to dry clothes after a chilly dip. The bay is a popular place for local swimmers due to the gently sloping sandy beach which means it is possible to enjoy dipping in water that is relatively shallow. On all but the wildest days, when the water is more likely to be occupied by surfer’s than swimmers, scantily clad, gloved and booted people can often be seen scurrying to and from the water in front of the L’Horizon Hotel, including a hardy group of ladies who count septo-, octo- and nonagenarians amongst their ranks.
Accessed via steps at the junction between the harbour wall and the last house on the pier at Gorey. Sheltered from the north westerly wind, this sandy-bottomed swimming spot is popular all year and enjoyed the most, when the jetty is covered by the tide. However, even when the tide is out, swimming here is a wonderful experience with the formidable Mont Orguiel in the background. Due to the strong tidal currents which flow along the coast, it is recommended that swimmers don’t head out beyond the outer mooring buoys and avoid the strongest flow of water, by only dipping during slack water, which is the period two hours before or after high or low tide. Fondly, known as ‘Backy Castle’ this is a favourite spot to dip a toe, and one place where squeals of ‘delight’ can be heard echoing off the harbour walls on a regular basis during the winter.