FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Departure day

Posted in Jersey by folkestonejack on September 14, 2012

The good luck of the airshow this year was quite apparent as I pulled back the curtains in my hotel room to a ceiling of dark clouds and light rain. The morning turned out to be pretty mixed, but thankfully the wind was strong enough to push the short and sharp showers through fairly quickly.

I had ended up at the airport to watch the morning’s departures which I knew would be something of a lucky dip. The alphajets of the Patrouille de France were some of the first attendees to leave. The first wave went out under cloudy skies with no sun to illuminate the jets on their passage down the runway – while the next two waves left to blue skies and sun!

Alphajets 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 line up at the end of the runway

A little while after this the might bulk of French Air Force (Armée de l’air) Lockheed C-130 Hercules military transport 61-ZC rumbled down the taxiway and took off.

61-ZC rumbles down the taxiway…

…and heads down the runway

Finally, the morning was capped off by the departure of a trio of hawks, one in a black livery and the other two in a union jack design. It seemed like an appropriate moment to leave – time to head back into St Helier for a bit of shopping and to visit the Maritime museum to check out their excellent exhibition TB Davis: The Only Sailor in the Fleet.

BAE Systems Hawk T1A XX230 ready for departure

My own departure was scheduled for the evening. After my experience with the fog last year I thought I would go for a stress free exit by ferry and indulge in a small spot of nostalgia. In some respects this was probably a mistake as the ferries these days are different beasts to those I travelled on as a child. In those days two Ro-Ro ferries made return crossings each day between Weymouth/Portsmouth and the Channel Islands, whereas now just one Ro-Ro ferry provides a single crossing in each direction. Fast ferries between Poole and the Channel Islands provide additional crossings. Nevertheless, it was interesting to see how much things have changed.

My transport home – the Commodore Clipper

The emphasis has very much swung away from foot passengers on the overnight crossing by conventional Ro-Ro ferry with just seven of us waiting to board in Jersey. In the 1970s there were substantial numbers of foot passengers (maybe even a majority) with many like us arriving in Portsmouth by train to make the crossing. Today the numbers don’t even seem to merit the use of a passenger walkway to the ship – we were led out to a minibus and driven on board the ship, taking a staircase from the car deck to reach the relatively small passenger space on board (though, I admit the relatively large size of the ships in my memory could partly be a reflection of my child-sized perspective at the time!). All very interesting to see, but I think I prefer to keep my fond memories of the ferry crossings the way they were. If there is a next time I will resist nostalgia and try the fast ferry instead…

More departure shots

Advertisements

Jersey international air display 2012

Posted in Jersey by folkestonejack on September 13, 2012

The arrival of a gigantic B-52 bomber overhead signalled the start of the 2012 air display in Jersey. The conditions were as perfect as you could hope for at an air show with beautiful blue skies and plenty of sun. Already the sea wall was lined with spectators all the way round from St Helier to St Aubin.

Once the B-52 had made one pass it returned for a second sweep of the bay though sadly it didn’t bomb the ugly luxury apartment blocks at Portelet or in the Waterfront development as some readers of the Jersey Evening Post had hoped!

The Lancaster flies over Fort Regent

After the opening act we were treated to acrobatic performances from the Patrouille de France, Red Arrows and Groupe Tranchant who provided displays that had most of us marvelling at the skill of the pilots (particularly during synchro pair sequences). Alongside this we had the spectacle of many historic aircraft, though for me it was hard to beat the sight of a Lancaster as it followed the curve of the bay round to us at St Aubin.

Amongst the more unusual of the guests at the airshow were three Saab jets from the Swedish Air Force Historic Flight which seemed appropriate in the 75th year since the founding of Saab. The three types on display today (the Saab J-37 Viggen, Saab J-29 Tunnan and Saab Sk60) date back to the 1950s/60s and have very distinctive designs. The Viggen in particular is striking for its use of two delta wings and its raw power made it the highlight of the show for me.

The Viggen was a relatively recent withdrawal from service – the type last saw frontline service in 2005 and continued on for a further two years in a training role before being completely replaced. After this, five years passed without sight of a Viggen in the skies. The restoration of one example to flight worthiness in May 2012 for the 75th anniversary and beyond has given all of us another chance to marvel at a remarkable machine. It was marvellous to see all three jets fly past in unison before their individual displays.

The Saab trio from the Swedish Historic Flight

The airshow has a reputation for bringing in innovative display teams and that label certainly applied to the Brittany Shuttle (consisting of a Broussard mother ship and the electric powered Cri-Cri) which gave us the first launch of an aircraft from another aircraft whilst in flight since 1939.

Apart from the ever changing mix of aircraft on display, the only noticeable alteration since my childhood has been the closure of the beach during the display for health and safety reasons. It now seems very strange to look back at pictures of the airshow taking place above packed beaches in the 1970s!

The Red Arrows thrill the crowds in Jersey

I had forgotten quite how marvellous the airshow in Jersey can be with the natural arena of St Aubin’s bay as a display space. Looking at the appreciation from the crowds that had turned out you would have to say that the efforts put in by Mike Higgins and the team had really paid off. I know that I was certainly wowed by everything that I saw. I am sure I will be back before too long.

A few more shots…

A walk along St Aubin’s bay

Posted in Jersey by folkestonejack on September 13, 2012

I spent many a day on the long stretch of beach in St Aubin’s bay as a child and was always fascinated by the strange constructions on the sea wall and one rather odd bit of wall seemingly standing in isolation on the beach. I am sure that I asked many questions that were impossible for my parents to answer at the time, so it was a pleasure to be able to walk the shoreline armed with a newish guidebook and answer my younger self!

The source of wisdom for my walk was ‘A guide to the German shoreline defences of St Aubin’s Bay’ which was published by the Channel Island Occupation Society in 2010 (available to purchase from the tourist information centre). The guidebook takes you on a walk from Resistance Nest Richtfeuer (at the old bus garage) to Resistance Nest Aubin Hafen with explanations of everything that you see on the way.

I spent about two hours taking a leisurely walk along the route, starting on the promenade but then moving down on to the beach for most of the way to St Aubin’s Fort. The tide was sufficiently far out that the causeway to Elizabeth Castle was completely uncovered and the view across the bay was very clear (in complete contrast to last year when it was barely visible through the fog). The blue skies and sun augured well for the coming airshow.

It transpired that the isolated stretch of wall I remembered at La Haule was in fact no innocent piece of sea wall, but part of a panzermauer (anti tank wall). In 1992 the government in Jersey connected this up, though it is still easy to appreciate how odd it look standing on its own.

Panzermauer at La Haule

Some of the bunkers on the island open for visitors from time to time, including Resistance Nest Millbrook which was sealed after the liberation and not opened again until 1984. Today, it is fully restored and the CIOS say that it is now one of the most complete bunkers of its type in Western Europe. Unfortunately the bunker was not open during my trip, but that means I have a good excuse to come back before too long…

Sights on the walk

Tagged with:

In search of blue skies

Posted in Jersey by folkestonejack on September 12, 2012

After an ill-fated trip to attend the Jersey international air display dissolved in the fog last year I thought I would give it another go this year. I hoped that the organisers couldn’t be so unlucky two years in a row, especially with it being the 60th anniversary of the airshow and the 75th anniversary of Jersey airport.

The three leopards on the original 1937 terminal building

The weather in Jersey was decidely mixed when I arrived but steadily improved. I was lucky enough to see the arrival of the Patrouille de France, the aerobatic demonstration team of the French Air Force (the equivalent to our Red Arrows). Initially three alphajets flew over the runway before peeling off one by one to land, followed a little later by the remainder.

A PAF alphajet lands at Jersey airport

After watching this spectacle I headed in to St Helier to check into my hotel, returning later in the afternoon to view the superb static display on the apron at the airport.

RAF Tornado GR4 at Jersey airport with the PAF lined up in the background

Static was something of a misnomer as some of the aircraft were still to arrive and others took the opportunity to get airborne for some pre-airshow practice. In the hour or two that I was there highlights included the Lancaster landing and the PAF returning to the air to practice their acrobatic routines.

The Lancaster lands at Jersey airport

The Patrouille de France return to the airport after practice

The weather was still proving incredibly variable delivering everything from bright sunshine through to dark clouds and rain. Thankfully, the forecast promises better things for the airshow. I only hope that they are right…

More arrivals and static

So much for nostalgia!

Posted in Jersey by folkestonejack on September 9, 2011

So, how did Jersey stack up to my childhood memories? Well, I guess to be honest that was always likely to be an impossible ask – if I’d gone back in time and visited the Jersey of my childhood as an adult it probably wouldn’t generate quite the same warm glow.

Changes

In the build up to my trip to Jersey I expected that much would have changed. Nevertheless, the scale of the (over)development that I saw was absolutely shocking. Maybe I wouldn’t have felt the same if I’d visited every year and watched the changes happen incrementally, but the contrast between the island I left in 1985 and the one I revisited in 2011 was so much greater than even I had anticipated.

The huge waterfront development feels like an out of proportion and ugly addition to the St Helier seafront, not helped by the dual carriageway isolating it from the town centre. It doesn’t strike me as a particularly people-friendly space either, which is a shame because it was always a pleasure to stroll along the esplanade (as it was) and out to the pier on our visits.

Incredibly the St Helier waterfront pales into comparison with the development in Portelet Bay which featured in an edition of the Jersey Evening Post I read during my stay (also available online at
Portelet revealed – so now what do you think?
) which seems a monstrous addition to the coastline. If this is the future for Jersey then I would say it’s a good time to go before the natural beauty of the place is swallowed up by luxury apartments!

I didn’t travel around the island to see the main tourist attractions, so I can’t really comment on how much these have changed – that will have to wait for a future trip. However, I did briefly visit Fort Regent which was always a highlight of my childhood holidays to Jersey.

Fort Regent

Fort Regent was constructed in the early years of the 19th century and sits in a prominent position above St Helier. In the 1970s it was converted into an entertainment complex and at the time we visited the island this was accessed by a cable car (see this wonderful youtube video – Fort Regent cable car capturing the experience) which both terrified and delighted me.

In the late 70s/early 80s the attractions of the fort included a number of small museums, an aquarium, shell collection, an outdoor adventure playground, a giant snake slide, a hall of mirrors, a small theatre for shows, a swimming pool, extensive rampart walks and some historic stuff from the old fort. It always seemed to be an exciting mix – at least from a child’s perspective! Sadly, the cable car system has gone and there are no attractions to speak of in the fort itself – other than some limited leisure facilities and small businesses. The swimming pool was shut in 2003. To an outsider it feels like a missed opportunity.

A quick google brought up a number of articles that show the future of the fort was still the subject of debate in early 2011. I had to laugh a little at a news report ‘Future of Jersey’s Fort Regent under review’ in which the lack of direct access from the centre of town was identified as a problem and suggested that creating such access, possibly at Snow Hill, could be the answer. That almost perfectly describes the role the cable car served from Snow Hill…

Fog and rain

I had allowed myself to forget the hassles of fog delayed flights and the occasion where our ferry couldn’t dock in St Helier as the tide had gone out (frustratingly we sat outside the port for hours). The last day gave a rather unwelcome reminder of those hassles.

So, all in all, so much for nostalgia!

Time to depart

Posted in Jersey by folkestonejack on September 9, 2011

The grey skies and low cloud were still very much in evidence at first light but finally started to release their grip of the island by late morning.

Up till now I hadn’t really appreciated the effect the weather had on commercial flights yesterday – the low cloud and fog had brought about severe disruption to commercial flights with 34 inbound flights and 27 outbound flights cancelled or delayed yesterday afternoon/evening. The disruption wasn’t over yet – I walked into the terminal to see that every flight out was either cancelled or delayed so far this morning. It was pure luck that my flight back to London Gatwick was later in the day, by which time conditions had improved significantly.

I took a walk around the airfield on the marked footpath/cycleway and enjoyed the spectacle of a few departures including those of the BAE Hawks, Alphajets and the Sea Vixen. I particularly enjoyed the latter – there is something rather incredible about those jet fighters of the 1950s/60s that is hard to equal. I was delighted to see (and hear) the Sea Vixen take off and then loop round for a pass before heading out to sea.

BAE Systems Hawk XX245 taxis to the end of the runway at Jersey, ready for departure

A French Air Force Alpha Jet departs from Jersey airport passing one of the old hangars

At the end of my walk I reached a viewpoint looking out across St Ouen’s Bay which looked refreshingly unspoilt by development. After taking in the scene for a while I turned around and headed back the same way, ready for my own departure on a British Airways flight. All things considered, it was rather remarkable that my flight was only delayed by about 15-30 minutes. In the past we hadn’t been quite so lucky, I remember having to return to St Helier for the night on one occasion after bad weather had resulted in the cancellation of our flight home. I was quite relieved to escape…

Showtime… or not!

Posted in Jersey by folkestonejack on September 8, 2011

I pulled back the curtains of my hotel room this morning to rather gloomy grey skies, but still managed to cling onto a hope that we might see a show of some kind after seeing a weather forecast that suggested the skies might clear for a while in the break between two weather systems. As promised the weather did improve around midday but all too quickly the second weather system moved in and it seemed inevitable that the show would not go on…

I took a photograph of Elizabeth Castle in the height of the gloom which amply demonstrates the impossibility of operating any kind of air display in those conditions. You could barely make out the castle and Noirmont was completely hidden from my viewpoint.

Elizabeth Castle hidden in the mists

In contrast, a day earlier the conditions had been much better – as you can see from the second photograph which shows a distant view of the alphajet heading away from St Aubin’s Bay.

A distant view of the alphajet as it heads away from St Aubin's Bay a day earlier

The curtains finally came down on the air show at 3.45pm and the local newspaper, the Jersey Evening Post, reported that it was believed to be the first time the air show had been cancelled due to poor weather.

It’s got be a tough life as an organiser – having worked so hard to arrange the sponsorship for the air show, negotiate to bring such a wonderful array of aircraft in and then have the weather thwart your efforts (of course, still having to pay for all of that regardless of whether the show actually took place). I hope they have better luck next year for their 60th anniversary air show.

Static display at Jersey airport

Posted in Jersey by folkestonejack on September 7, 2011

A static display of the aircraft taking part in the airshow opened at the airport this afternoon and I went to check it out, not having particularly high expectations. How wrong I could be! It was a fantastic opportunity to take photographs of the aircraft against the backdrop of the airport. Indeed, static turned out to be a deceptive word as there were still some arrivals expected and many of the aircraft went out to practice, providing us with the spectacle of aircraft taxiing to and fro. All credit to the organisers for having arranged such a friendly and accessible display. It was well worth the small admission charge.

Arrival and arrivals

Posted in Jersey by folkestonejack on September 7, 2011

An early start got me down to Gatwick airport in plenty of time for my 8.50am flight to Jersey with Flybe. It was only a short flight with around 35 minutes in the air but I was still very impressed with the fresh interior of the Embraer E-195 which made a welcome change from some of the tired plane interiors I have seen on my travels.

We landed a little early at about 9:44am, evidently followed a few minutes later by the Alpha Jets from the French Air Force which were waiting to cross the apron as I walked down the steps from the plane. I made it out to the front of the building by 10am and a glance up at the arrivals board showed the Red Arrows were expected shortly. I made my way along the airport perimeter fence and joined a small crowd that had gathered by the Aero Club. I didn’t have to wait too long before I saw the Red Arrows fly over the runway in formation and then peel off one by one, loop around and land. A magnificent sight and a great way to start the day in Jersey!

As well as the Red Arrows, I also saw the arrival of the RAF Shorts Tucanos and Dassault Flamants before heading off into St Helier with a smile on my face.

Treading in the footsteps of childhood

Posted in Jersey by folkestonejack on September 6, 2011

As a child I went on holiday with my family in Jersey for about nine summers in the 70s/80s (1973, 1975-1981, 1985) but I haven’t been back there for 26 years (unsurprisingly enough, by the end of 9 years I had an almost photographic memory of the interiors of the castles we visited each year!).

After idly talking about going back on a number of occasions I have finally got my act together and booked a flight out to go and see the Jersey International Air Display later this week. I’ve seen the air display before – possibly two or three times – though I would only have been four years old on the probable first occasion in 1976!

Whatever the exact year(s), I am told that amongst the planes presented to us over St Aubin’s bay we saw a Shackleton, Vulcan and Harrier. At that time health and safety was not such a concern, so you could happily sit on the beach and watch everything take place above you – the only concession to such matters being an instruction for bathers to get out of the swimming pool whilst the Harrier hovered!

On another occasion we had taken the bus to the beach at St Ouen’s bay (near our favourite cafe, El Tico) which was just under a mile from the end of the airport runway. As it was the day after the air show many of the planes were making their way back home and we were surprised as a Lancaster and Spitfire took off right above us, followed by two Jaguars. My brother, two years younger than me, ducked as they passed far overhead!

It will be interesting to see how much I remember and how much has changed since I last saw the place. I am slightly nervous that I might unintentionally trample on my childhood memories of an idyllic holiday island and end up replacing them with a much less favourable impression from an adult perspective. I fly out tomorrow morning so it won’t be long until I find out…