Wet and wild on the way to Icho Tower

WHILE I have a broad range of interests, if I have to select one I am most passionate about it has to be the marine habitats and supported species found in Jersey’s coastal waters.

My favourite walk therefore lies amongst the maze of reefs and sand bars spread across the La Rocque and Le Hocq coastlines, which I have walked, waded and explored for over 50 years, never tiring of the beauty, rarity and range of life found there. It is a dangerous place, which must be treated with knowledge and respect.

Park on the roadside gravel car park at La Rocque Harbour.

Setting off from the large slipway at La Rocque, an hour and a half before low on a good spring tide, head down the beach passing the pier head and out into the harbour approaches.

Here you enter the world of huge rock pools, mini sea monsters and big, big skies. Keeping to the west side, wade past the white painted rock and look out for a boulder-filled flooded gully leading away to the right at 45 degrees. This pool is filled with sponges, sea squirts, anemones and seaweeds that are all the colours of the rainbow.

Emerging from this pool and out onto the sand bars on the edge of the reef turn right to be confronted with huge rock sculptures and bird-filled lagoons, the preserve of the low-water fisherman. Head toward the land until Icho Tower lies just behind your left shoulder, turn toward the tower keeping close to the large rock heads, which are part of the Icho islet and continue to climb to the top.

You have entered the realm of the seal and the cormorant. The tranquillity of this kelp-covered seascape with its all-encompassing sky will enthrall you.

Time and tide wait for no man and you must be away half an hour after low water. Retrace your steps past the rock heads and crossing the sand bars steer for the white marked rock clearly seen ahead, keeping it just to your left. This area is filled with clams, which will mark your passing with the jets of water they emit when disturbed. Weaving through the weed and shell-covered gullies, head east until you come to a rock outcrop which resembles a prehistoric dolmen. Turning left, re-enter the harbour approaches before returning to dry land, tired, damp yet captivated and content.

Suitable tides to walk in the Icho Tower area safely have to be 1.5m or less at low water to allow time to walk out, enjoy the scenery and return. It cannot be stressed enough that, unless you know what you are doing, you should only do this walk with an accredited guide.

Information

Time: Allow 3½ hours. It’s a round trip of about seven miles and on unforgiving surfaces so quite strenuous.

There are toilets and a café at La Rocque, and the Seymour Inn is just round the corner when heading toward Gorey.

Not suitable for wheelchairs or buggies as large sections of the walk contain bodies of water, boulders and seaweed.

Never attempt this walk unless you have experience of the reef systems of the south-east coast. Best be safe and call on a guide to arrange an organised walk.

Meet your Guide - Bob Tompkins

Favourite view: The view across Grouville Marsh when walking from the eastern end of Chemin des Maltières on the edge of Gorey Village, looking across the flood meadows around Les Près Manor to Grouville Church.

Favourite beach: La Rocque.

Favourite fascinating fact: Barn owls can see little better than humans. However, their hearing is 300 times greater.

Contact details:

Bob Tompkins, offshore guide and National Trust for Jersey Lands chairman

Tel: 851967 or 07797 749616. Email: bobtompkins@live.co.uk

Download/print a PDF of the walking map

Other Walks