Explorers enjoy the Jersey sunset

Venue Review: Jersey Scout Centre Campsite

A group of Explorers were tempted to Jersey by the promise of stunning scenery, near-Mediterranean weather and, importantly, a bundle of activities. What they got was way more than this!

Venue Review of Jersey Scout Centre Campsite

Overview

Explorer Camp

A group of Explorers were tempted to Jersey by the promise of stunning scenery, near-Mediterranean weather and, importantly, a bundle of activities.

What they got was way more than this!

Jersey is a curious island with long, gently-sloping sandy beaches. And history. Some amazing history. A week focused on activities including jet skiing, blo-karting and sea-kayaking was complemented with hands-on investigations in to the war-time occupation by Nazis. 

The Campsite

As campsites go, being a road away from a west-facing sandy beach is not bad for a bunch of teenagers. Jersey Scout Centre has a mix of fields and trees that allowed the group to benefit from a flat area for the cook station and some tents, and for some Explorers to set up and use hammocks. 

The site was at near capacity, with groups from across the UK, including one that neighboured our pitch from Cardiff. One group had secured the use of the building where the toilets / shower block was located; small individual porta-loos were located around the site to provide additional and more localised pit-stops. Typically queues for the showers in the morning were inevitable. 

The site provided all of the cooking equipment we needed (having travelled light on the ferry with only one support car for camp kit); from spatulas and pans to the burner and gas. It also had a stash of pioneering poles that were, on arrival, refashioned in to the now obligatory flag pole. 

While the campsite is out of the way, and a journey away from all activities, we were happy with only one vehicle as we had calculated that all journeys were achievable by bus, by foot or by shuttle runs in the car. Very conveniently, the bus stop is a one minute walk from the campsite with routes to St Helliers, from where everywhere else is accessible.

Beach Activities

We chose to do two of our activities with the same company; because there were some uncertainties with the weather, it was considered that they would be able to reschedule if needed. The force 8 wind allowed us to test this!

The first activity that we enjoyed was blo-karting. Imagine a Topper sailing dinghy. Now add three wheels! The location for this was the 5-mile long beach opposite the campsite, but at the wrong end. The provider laid out an oval course that ran adjacent to the sea. The Explorers were given helmets and minimal instruction. The controls are limited to handle bars and a rope that holds the sail. With a basic understanding that the wind blows, the Explorers were surprisingly quick in getting up to speed with the blo-karts. It is surprising how competitive even the most fair of Explorers can become once they experience an activity that they connect with so well!

The group split in two for another activity day, provided by a different company. One group water skied while the second jet skied. I have not seen a group of teenagers so collectively happy than while jet skiing. This course was a triangle and, as per the rules of the water, located a correct distance from the shore and away from hazards (including swimmers!). The boats were limited to 60 kph, but that was fast enough. As the first group was screaming around the course, yelps of joy could be heard from the shore line. The more confident Explorers were riding the wake of other boats, catching air before landing with a thud. The smiles of satisfaction stayed.

The water skiers had an equally good time. The instructors offered the use of tow lines and bars to ensure that all levels were catered for. This allowed both experienced Explorers and first-timers to enjoy the experience without feeling broken at the end.

The final watersport activity was a joint sea-kayak and coasteering session. The coastline of Jersey is something to behold. On the spits of most bays will be a Nazi-built cement gun turret. These turrets are situated on fantastic rock formations. Something else that makes this place a great one for this activity is that the Jersey coastline has one of the largest tidal ranges in the world. The tide’s height can vary by 12 meters! This means that the rock formations are stunning, as water has flowed in and out over the years to craft visually impressive shapes. It also means that you should pick the time of your coasteering well!

On reflection, Jersey is a stunning place for an Explorer camp
On reflection, Jersey is a stunning place for an Explorer camp

Our time slot for the sea-kayaking was while the tide was out. This meant that some of the normal jumps were unsafe or inaccessible. The low tide did ensure that we were able to kayak around rocks and get up close and personal with the coast’s natural form. We did jump three times, not as many as other trips, but that didn’t spoil the experience. What a place to see nature from.

Land-based Activities

Walking over the road to the beach and then to the right is an old gun turret. The once secured shelter hides under a giant mound of soil, cloaked in grass. From the outside, small, tiny even, windows look in to darkness. These windows once housed guns pointed out to sea, protecting the bay from attack. Inside cans, broken bottles and rubbish lay on the floor. The rooms are so dark, they easily consume all light inadequate phone torches emit. History awakes. This is where real Nazis sat and waited for attack. Right in this room.

We visited the Channel Islands Military Museum (as a Scout Group we got a discount!). Inside was, wall to wall, frightening reminders of war. Shells, guns, daggers, uniforms, gas masks, first aid kits and more, each bearing the Nazi emblem.

An unfinished tunnel
An unfinished tunnel hints at the wartime conditions

Another museum we visited is the Jersey War Tunnels. Journeying around the site along dimly lit tunnels to decorated rooms you experience something of the raw conditions. Unfinished tunnels sit as a testament to what only two generations back had to endure. Fallen debris lays under potentially unstable rocks overhead, roped off from visitors. The story of occupation is told through video, artifacts and imagery. A bomb shelter rocks to the sound of bombs landing, lights flash off and the sound of a crash disorientates the senses. There are ten of us sat around the benches in the shelter, a ‘British’ distance apart. The sign indicates that this space is only suitable for up to 120 people. I can’t see where the other 100 might fit.

The Explorers took a genuine interest in the exhibits, sensitively reading and watching the content. Over our packed lunches, sat in the memorial garden, the discussion was around the reality of what we saw, and its recency.

Verdict

The campsite is basic. We only had access to the site’s kitchen following a storm that meant cooking outside was not possible; the users’ offer of a morning coffee was gratefully received! To use the kitchen, you need to book the whole facility. This means you need to be able to cook outside. The gents consisted of two cubicles and two showers. With a potential capacity of over 150 campers, the site could benefit from more.

The staff are brilliant. After our event shelter perished in the storm, they were able to provide a mess tent. They provided a well stocked tuck shop that was well frequented.

The basic nature of the campsite is reason for the rating. Considering the whole expedition to Jersey, we rate it a five star experience. All in, you cannot go wrong with a visit to Jersey Scout Centre but you need to take everything with you and be prepared to travel. Next time we go (and we will!), we will take the minibus.

Star rating: 

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