Harriett and Henry paddle in crystal clear waters look how clear it is no pollution here lr 
Harriett and Henry Saunders paddle in crystal clear waters - no pollution here!


By Tim Saunders

The quality of sea water has never been so important as profit driven water companies persist in carelessly disposing of sewage into our poor neglected oceans. And so, it is an absolute pleasure to discover that there is excellent sea water quality in Guernsey’s bays. And that excellent result can be trusted because firstly the water was tested in June this year and secondly my family and I visited in August and experienced it for ourselves. I can tell you that it is fantastic. On the days that we visit, the sea is a pleasant temperature. This, during a somewhat temperamental summer, weather wise, there is some cloud but also a good amount of sunshine (when back at home it’s raining – The Channel Islands are noted for receiving more than their fair share of sunshine…). After arriving at St Peter Port we stumble upon Cobo Bay, just a few miles away on this small island that is a mere six miles long by three miles wide. Paradise greets us. Looking at the water gently lapping against our feet as we paddle carefree, we spy water snails and different colours of seaweed. Such a striking habitat is only going to survive in great quality water. A stark contrast to any beach I have visited in the last twelve months back at home. The sand on this beach is soft to the touch, too. Really fabulous. This is what summer holidays are all about and always were but it seems they are so difficult to find these days. There’s no dodging effluent here or for that matter, holidaymakers. It’s like a little secret I am sharing with you – I shouldn’t really for fear of ruining it. We explore more of Cobo Bay throughout our stay and make sure we savour the paddling experience. On one occasion we spy a greenshank with its long beak looking for its lunch.

We soon discover that seaweed is big business in Guernsey. Booking into The Peninsula in the Vale district, we discover hand and body lotion, shampoo and conditioner in our room, all made with this common ingredients from the sea. This is a glowing example of self-sufficiency, something the island seems to be very good at. Until Britain joined the EU Guernsey was also renowned for its ‘toms’ but competition killed that off. I wonder whether now we have left, will their reputation for supplying superb tomatoes to the rest of the UK be restored? It strikes me that Guernsey is much of what the United Kingdom should be, but isn’t. There are few empty shop units in the high street. Businesses seem to support each other and customer service is very good. I can’t say that about shops on the mainland.

On our arrival at The Peninsula where we stay on a bed and breakfast basis, the children quickly make friends with Apple, the receptionist. They love her and really enjoy their new found independence of going up to reception and asking for the room keys or filling up their water bottles from the large pitcher complete with fresh fruit that is provided each day. They also get the towels for swimming. We have interconnecting bedrooms and the children continue to enjoy phoning each other on the landlines in each room (first discovered during our Jersey break last year). Every morning there is a substantial breakfast for each guest including traditional and continental. The full English breakfast is certainly popular.

When we’re not swimming in the hotel’s heated outdoor pool we have time to visit some attractions. The Guernsey Folk & Costume Museum gives an excellent idea of what life used to be like. Carts, carriages, old farming equipment combined with some splendid dresses make for a really enjoyable visit. We’re also introduced to the famous Guernsey sweater, which has a unique look and is popular with seafarers. The children are given a clipboard with a sheet requiring them to find certain objects, which keeps them amused. We particularly like the school room where there is extremely neat handwriting on the blackboard. A fellow visitor notes, “A blackboard, chalk and board rubber, that’s what we used to have before the environmentally unfriendly whiteboard and pens.” Quite. Much so-called progress is anything of the sort. At nearby Saumarez Park, despite the rain, there is plenty to tire the little ones out. The free to use adventure playground is a big hit with plenty to climb and the zipwire being a particular favourite. There’s a Japanese pagoda for us to stand and watch the ducks, too.

At the German Underground Hospital we get an insight into the German occupation of Guernsey during WWII. Henry, in tired mode, can’t resist but shout as he walks, enjoying hearing the echo. One long continuous tunnel, it is a feat of engineering. Cut into the hillside it is very cold inside. It’s a chilling, uncomfortable environment, impossible to imagine how it could ever be warm enough for delivering medical care. We visit the kitchen where there is a range and this part of the structure was also the heating plant... We see models of miners wearing tough clothing, thick boots and hats. There are ladders up to the top and water drips down. A six year old Guernsey girl who had her tonsils removed at this hospital, is still alive, in her 80s.

At the Little Chapel, decorated in lots of little pieces of broken porcelain, some has been donated by Wedgwood. Quite incredible. Created in 1914 by Brother Déodat, he planned to create a miniature version of the grotto and basilica at Lourdes, the Rosary Basilica.  

Guernsey is a gourmet’s delight and at the Conservatory Restaurant at Moores Hotel in St Peter Port our taste buds are certainly tickled. On arrival we have drinks on the terrace, overlooking St Peter Port. I have to try a Rocquette Cider, which is made on the island. From the label on the bottle I learn that Guernsey has been making cider and supplying it to the mainland since the 16th century. Delicious. As the evening turns a little chilly Henry suggests we go inside for dinner. Here we are met with a splendid dining area, light music in the background, elegant and tasteful decoration. All of this is topped off with fellow diners conversing in French (it is very close to France). This really does make you feel like you’re on holiday, which is great for Harriett (12) who is learning the language. We all enjoy it, too. Eyes widen as our delightfully designed dishes are presented. Such attention to detail is really pleasing. My smoked duck starter is like a work of art and very tasty. This is followed by sea bream and new potatoes, accompanied by a large glass of Pinot Grigio. I really enjoy my food and this is the best meal I have had out for a long, long time. It is a joy to be presented with food that is much better than I could prepare myself. So often these days, restaurants seem to be merely microwave food specialists rather than producing homemade food from scratch. Not so here, you can tell all of our meals have been lovingly prepared in the kitchen. The sticky toffee pudding and Guernsey vanilla ice cream is faultless, too. My wife’s Arabic salad is delicious. The children enjoy their homemade burgers and chips followed by a selection of Guernsey ice cream. Their smiles of contentment say it all.

We travel with our car on Condor Ferries from Poole to St Peter Port with the journey taking around three hours. The standard seats are comfortable and we walk on to the deck to say goodbye to Poole and hello to St Peter Port. During the journey the latest Peter Rabbit film can be watched in the children’s area and Henry makes acquaintance with a little boy called Theo, who is travelling to Jersey with his mother. Guernsey is the first stop for the ferry to make, followed by Jersey and the children enjoy guessing when Guernsey will actually appear as the Captain informs us that we are soon to arrive. On the way there are a number of very small islands. Various sea birds fly past and some even overtake. We arrive just after midday, which means we have much of the day ahead to explore. Our return journey sees us leaving at around 10pm and returning to Poole in the early hours. The children don’t mind this though because they can travel in their pyjamas. Henry (7) is in his onesie and is accompanied by trusty Dino.

There is so much to do in Guernsey that we must return to visit the places we have yet to discover.

For more information visit:
Tim Saunders on Facebook
Tim Saunders on Twitter
Tim Saunders on LinkedIn