'Jersey may look down its nose at Guernsey but there is a sense of charm that sets the island apart'

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By Paula Thelwell

I LEFT the Island over three years as part of the growing diaspora across the age groups, seeking a more affordable and quieter pace of life in the south-west of England where houses sell for far lower prices and – even with soaring inflation – the cost of living is cheaper.

Sadly, Jersey left me a long time before and, as time passes, I find myself growing increasingly fond of Guernsey.

Jersey may look down its nose at its sister Bailiwick to the north for being a tad behind the times but there is a charm and prevailing sense of localism – though thankfully not in the Royston Vasey sense – that sets Guernsey apart.

The same feeling can still be found, in spite of incomers such as me and second-home owners, in Cornwall, Devon, Somerset et al where Islanders are forging new lives away from a place that was home to generations of their forebears.

My affection for Guernsey, home to relatives on both side of my lineage, derives from a more pleasing architectural cohesion of a largely preserved historic town and traditional coastal cottages.

Even the most patriotic of Islanders, wedded to the ancient inter-insular rivalries, has to concede that St Peter Port, set on steep hills with a green backdrop above a deep-water harbour, is more picturesque than the modern ‘catalogue’ architecture that looms over St Helier’s shoreline in Canute-like defiance at rising sea levels.

Nonetheless, both islands suffer the same modern ills – traffic congestion and transport issues, over-inflated property markets and a reliance on foreign imports that undermines food security.

But it is an inability to provide affordable houses for first-time buyers – and many other locals – that has been the abject failure of successive administrations in both jurisdictions.

Where Guernsey also wins in my book is the connection with the sea along much of its shoreline and tracts of common land comprising open dune and marine heathland. Not only are beaches, bays and coves accessible but there is also a collection of beach cafés, shacks and restaurants where people can eat and drink while enjoying a direct view of the sea.

Admittedly, that is largely across a busy road. But that is preferable to the disconnection Jersey’s coast suffers as a result of densely built-up developments that pack the coastal strip from St Helier eastwards to Gorey.

Yet what makes Guernsey’s coast from Portelet Beach to the top at L’Ancresse so special is the proliferation of traditional cottages in the vernacular style, as if the post-Liberation housing boom that transformed Jersey’s coastline and swallowed up duneland passed Guernsey by.

And that, in my book, is its crowning achievement.

Castle scream

Returning to Jersey and Guernsey earlier this month, more than three years after I moved to the UK, served up a mixed batch of emotions.

It was good to catch up with friends, visits favourite haunts, down a glass of rosé al-fresco on Gorey Pier and enjoy Jersey Royals and asparagus as they are best eaten, fresh from fork to plate.

But it also brought disappointments.

These included the ongoing ‘Kardashian’ transformation of properties in Gorey and nowhere more than opposite the Castle Green. Sadly, a for sale sign has appeared on one of the last remaining old properties.

How long before that is reduced to rubble, the hill behind dug out to pack in another ‘in-your-face’ multi-million pound mansion fronted with steel and glass, the glint from which, in the rising sun, will be seen in France, 14 miles away?

Last orders

One thing high on the to-do list for my visit was to have a pint of beer outside the Seymour Inn.

It was my father’s favourite place to drink, sat outside with the dogs perched on the roadside wall after a walk on the beach. As he sipped his pint, he would enjoy the view afforded by the gap in ribbon development by the beach slip and car park, over the Royal Bay of Grouville to Seymour Tower and the distant coast of France.

The pub’s bar – where sea-sodden trainers and sandy paws were welcome – was what got you back to the shore after low-water fishing. Then you would head back outside to admire the effort and journey that had gone into getting your catch.

It was a passion passed on to family from Yorkshire and Australia who regarded the pub with equal affection.

Imagine my horror on stepping over the threshold to see it has been transformed into yet another restaurant, its character and history lost along with those of so many local pubs.

Sometimes going back is a bitter pill best not taken – even with a pint.

A treat too far?

Jersey’s ice sellers are feeling the pinch owing to a worldwide shortage of Cadbury Flakes – the key ingredient to top off a 99 cone.

Long gone are the days when this crumbly treat was made the old way at the founder’s HQ in Birmingham. Today, Cadbury’s chocolate is produced around the world by American-owned Mondelez International.

The shortage of Flakes was first felt last year when production was moved from Ireland to Egypt to significantly increase the little treat’s food miles and carbon footprint.

Are we not supposed to be saving the planet instead of adding to the gasses that are suffocating it?

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