Jersey Kayak Adventures

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Trips to Les Ecrehous

April 9th, 2012

I came across this delightful home movie of a families trip to Les Ecrehous in the late 1960’s or early 1970’s. The film reminds me of my first sea kayak trips to Les Ecrehous. After many kayak trips and guided tours to Les Ecrehous these tiny islets still have a special magic.

Almost all the huts remain as seen in the film. A few have been destroyed by storms and rebuilt. Some now include modern windows and solar panels. Many features remain unchanged, apart from a new coat of paint.

The sea still pours between the rocks at high tide as seen in the movie. If you know what you are doing this can be an exciting swimming spot. Just ensure you have plenty of safety cover in place.

I’m quite impressed with the number of Lobsters being caught near to the islet.

The hermit of Les Ecrehous- Alphonse Le Gastelois

First crossing to les Ecrehous. Photo. K Mansell

My first kayak trip to les Ecrehous in August 1974

The man collecting lobsters is Alphonse Le Gastelois, the hermit of Les Ecrehous. He fled to Les Écréhou, where he lived for 14 years; Alphonse was something of an eccentric and a loner on Jersey and he was therefore a prime target for suspicion when a series of sex crimes occurred. To prove his innocence Alphonse moved to the reef where he remained until 1975.

I recall visiting Les Ecrehous by sea kayak one weekday when no other people were about in the 1970’s. Alphonse reminded me of Robinson Crusoe with a long beard, duffel coat and a huge telescope. He was happy to talk about how the States of Jersey had no right to govern Les Ecrehous. Only the Queen had this right and Alphonse believed he should act as the Queen’s representative.

Les Ecrehous huts

Les Ecrehous huts are now more brghtly painted than in the film

A large bundle of letters and documents sat in his hut as evidence of his dispute with the States of Jersey to be the Queen’s representative. He wanted to show me the documents and letters but regrettably I did not have time as the tide was turning. It made me wonder whether he visited Jersey to research and follow up his claim to be her majesty’s representative.

In 1971 the perpetrator of the crimes was caught, but by then Alphonse had made Les Écréhou his home and refused to return to Jersey. ‘This is my home now! … Jersey crucified me’ reported Time magazine in 1971.

During the latter years of his residence his relationship with some hut owners became more tense as he increasingly regarded the reef to be under his guardianship. He only returned to live in Jersey in 1975 after he was arrested and charged with arson for burning down two huts. Alphonse was subsequently acquitted but never returned to his remote and wild home.

Csutoms hut les Ecrehous

Impots or customs hut is on the left.The inside views of the hut in the film is on the right

Today we organise guided walking and kayak tours to Les Ecrehous. Travel across by charter boat to to Les Ecrehous and explore the reef with trained guides.

More about Les Ecrehous

There are many variants in the spelling of Les Ecrehous, Écréhou, Ecréhos, Ecréos. One explanation is that the name is derived from the two Scandinavian words sker-holm, meaning rocky islets, hou is a contraction for the Old Norse word “holm” meaning an islet. However, Dr Richard Coates postulates that the preponderance of the use of “..re..” in medieval records suggests that Ecrehous actually means “island distinguished by adjacent skerries”.

The excellent (but out of print) ‘Les Écréhous Jersey’, by Warwick Rodwell is a remarkable source of information about the tiny islands lying 6 miles north east of Jersey.

Learn more about our guided charter boat tours to les Ecrehous.

We travel across by charter boat and there are options to either kayak or walk the reef with our trained guides.

Derek Hairon

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