Green Jersey

Saddle up for a sustainable holiday in the Channel Islands


As we pull into the docks in St Helier, the thick fog that enveloped our ferry during the crossing suddenly vanishes and I can see why Jersey deserves its reputation as the sunniest place in the British Isles.

Arriving for the celebrations of Liberation Day — marking the end of Nazi occupation on May 9, 1945 — there’s also a brass band playing, soldiers in uniforms and flags everywhere.

The largest of the Channel Islands, you can fly to Jersey from many places in the UK, but I’ve opted to make my travel to the island more eco-friendly. It’s easy enough — a train to Poole and then the fast Condor ferry to St Helier (with more scenic views as you cross the English Channel, if you’re luckier than me).

The people of Jersey take sustainability seriously, constantly looking to develop more ways to live in harmony with their island environment. They have the grand ambition to be carbon neutral by 2030 and encourage you to collect the plastic and rubbish from the beaches, with a full bucket getting you a free hot drink at the seaside cafés.

The island is also a haven for cyclists seeking both natural beauty and those embracing slow travel. One of the island’s unique features is its network of so-called Green Lanes, designated for cyclists, walkers, and horse riders. They’re all well signed and are away from main roads, often following coastal trails and quiet countryside lanes.

Even though the island is only five miles long and nine miles wide, it’s not exactly flat and cycling can be tough. So the solution is an e-bike, which I collect from the rental shop just off the seafront. It is perfectly capable of conquering the steep hills and ideal if you want to reduce your carbon footprint, minimise noise pollution and explore sustainably.

The simplest way to discover the island is to follow the coastline all the way around, a path aptly titled Route 1. It’s well signed with some wonderful vistas, charming villages, and leafy lanes along the way.

I set out from St Helier in an anti-clockwise direction, cycling west along the bike path around the bay. After a long flat stretch, at St Aubin I climb uphill and follow an old railway track to La Corbière Lighthouse.

Heading north along the flat expanse of St Ouen’s Bay, I stop at the Channel Islands Military Museum, housed in a Second World War bunker. It tells the extraordinary story of the only part of the British Isles to fall under German rule.

The occupation of the Channel Islands began on June 30, 1940, shortly after the fall of France, with the German military establishing a firm grip on the island, introducing censorship and surveillance to maintain its authority.

The small Jewish community on the islands comprised around 20 to 30 individuals, mostly refugees who had fled from occupied territories in mainland Europe. Required to wear yellow stars and subjected to curfews, they also faced discrimination in employment and housing.

By the summer of 1942, the Germans set in motion plans to deport the islands’ Jewish residents. Three women were sent from Guernsey to France, before being murdered at Auschwitz, while other island inhabitants were sent to various internment and concentration camps.

Thankfully, logistical challenges and the advancing Allied forces meant that the deportation process was never fully implemented, and on May 9, 1945, two days after Germany’s surrender, the German garrison in Jersey finally surrendered to British forces, marking the end of the occupation.

There are still surviving German bunkers along this stretch of beach, including one serving a happier purpose at L’Etacq, converted to a restaurant serving fresh fish and Jersey Royal potatoes. I turn inland for a fairly steep climb north-east before dropping down to the coast at Grève de Lecq.

There’s a marked contrast between the long flat sandy beaches of the south and west and the wooded deep coves of the north.

From here the trail stays inland but still follows the coast, passing the villages of Sorel, St John and Trinity before descending to the sea at the fishing village of Rozel where I stop for lunch, before another exhilarating climb leads eventually back down to the sea at Fliquet and St Catherine’s Breakwater.

In the distance, the distinctive shape of Mont Orgueil Castle overlooks the port of Gorey, and it’s well worth stopping here for a brief visit. Built in the 13th century, the castle was originally designed as a stronghold to protect the island against French invasion.

Over the centuries, it underwent expansions and modifications, evolving into the formidable fortress that stands today.

Homeward bound, my route west brings me through the village of Grouville before arriving back in St Helier. It’s taken me most of the day, and I’ve cycled 50 miles: without the bonus of an e-bike it would have been tough. In fact, the battery looks about to give out towards the end of my trip but I just about make it back.

If you’re looking for a sustainable holiday in Jersey, you’re not limited to cycling though. Keeping to the environmental theme, I was keen to visit Jersey Zoo, home to the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. For more than 60 years they’ve been working to not only prevent extinctions but also to recover populations of threatened species and drive the rewilding of ecosystems.

Set near the village of Trinity, there are signed cycle routes taking you into the centre of the island if you want to arrive under your own steam too.

Situated in 32 acres of landscaped parkland and water-gardens, it’s home to 1,400 mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians and more than 130 endangered species. Sumatran orangutans, Andean bears and Montserrat orioles, rescued from beneath the smouldering volcano, live in lush, spacious environments that closely replicate their native habitats.

The zoo is renowned for its successful gorilla breeding programme and it’s fascinating to observe the behaviour of these majestic creatures interacting in their spacious enclosure. The highlight for me, though is Lemur Lake, where various species of these Madagascar primates leap enthusiastically from tree to tree.

The most unusual of the lemurs is the nocturnal Aye Aye. They look nothing like their relatives; with big eyes, and ears that move independently, they use their extra-long skeletal middle finger to find food by tapping logs and listening for the sound of bugs inside. In Madagascar, they were believed to be an omen of death and are now listed as endangered.

Fortunately, two have been born at the zoo, bringing the total to nine. You can see them close up, scurrying around in the darkness.

It all fits in with my objective of sustainable travel, leaving me just enough time to take the amphibious ferry from St Helier to Elizabeth Castle in the bay. Dating from the 16th century, it was built to replace the defences at Mont Orgueil and named after Elizabeth I.

The tide’s out after my visit so I walk back along the causeway to St Helier, in time for one final boat ride: heading back to the UK mainland on Condor Ferries, before taking the train home.

It might take a bit longer than flying but it’s a certainly a more relaxing way to travel. And I can feel a tiny bit smug, knowing I’m doing my bit to help save the planet as I discover this beautiful corner of the world.

Getting There

Journeys from Poole to Jersey take from four hours aboard the trimaran Condor Liberation with Condor Ferries, priced from around £50 for foot passengers. The company also offers package holidays.

Bike hire from Lakeys Bike Hire Jersey in St Helier costs from £21 per day, from £50 per day for e-bikes.

Doubles at the four-star Hotel de France in St Helier cost from £180, including access to the hotel spa.

For more information about the island, go to

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