Lighthouses have always held a strange fascination. When I was younger, my family always rented a house near the lighthouse of Mar del Plata, Argentina. It was the first thing I saw from the window every morning. So when I heard there was a lighthouse in Jersey, I had to see it.
The Jersey lighthouse, La Corbière
The name of the lighthouse, La Corbière , derives from the French for crows, corbeau, which were considered ill omens by sailors. Granted, there were many shipwrecks before the lighthouse was built in 1873. La Corbière dominates the southwest corner of the island of Jersey in the English Channel, in the parish of St. Brelade.
Jersey’s lighthouse was built on a rocky tidal island and is connected with the mainland via a causeway. You can walk to La Corbière at low tide. It seems you’re walking on a lunar landscape. However, beware of the tide. It returns so fast that an alarm warns visitors when it’s time to hoof it back to the mainland. you can be easily swept away by the current, which has unfortunately happened here. I must admit to a certain lingering worry when we walked there.
La Corbière was the first lighthouse in the British Isles to be built of reinforced concrete. It’s 35 feet (10 metres) high and is 500 yards from the shore. Its light can be seen for 18 miles (29 km) in clear weather. When visibility is poor, an electric fog horn blows four times every minute. I never heard it during our time in Jersey. Granted, we stayed in the opposite end of the island.
The light was switched off during the German Occupation (1940-1945) unless a German ship was trying to navigate these treacherous waters. It was switched on after the liberation of the Channel Islands and has been lit ever since. The Germans also built bunkers and a massive observation tower to the east of La Corbière , which is now the local radio shipping station.
The Railway Walk
You can take the bus route 12 to La Corbière, but the route is seasonal. Alternatively, you can do the Railway Walk. It starts off the main road as it turns inland from St. Aubin’s Harbour. The walk follows the route of the old Jersey Railway. It ran between St Helier and St Aubin until 1936. Opened in 1870, it was the island’s first and only railway.
Put on your walking shoes, pack a picnic and set off on this gently sloping, green, six-kilometre long walk. The views at the end are more than worth the effort.
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