Much of Jersey’s diverse coastland is protected from development and remains relatively open and unspoilt. The spectacular granite cliffs and the rugged coastal heathland are a haven for wildlife as well as for climbing. Here, the sea birds flock and nest in droves and the vegetation is ablaze with colour in the spring and summer. For the past few thousand years, the cliffs have been home to sea birds such as the herring gull and the shag, the few remaining burrow nesting puffins, and extreme fliers such as the fulmar. Other birds such as rooks have also made their home on the cliffs and have been rejoined in recent years by birds of prey such as the world’s fastest flying bird, the peregrine falcon. Several of these cliff nesting birds are on the Jersey ‘red list’ of endangered bird species, and they and many other species of plants and animals are all protected by the Conservation of Wildlife (Jersey) Law 2000 from harm and disturbance of any kind.
Walking in to the climbs you often need to cross open heathland, where green lizards might dart away beneath your feet and stonechat, whitethroat and dartford warbler dance elegant displays in the undergrowth. Many nest in the scrub nearby and may even nest on the ground.
This wealth of wildlife lives in these coastal areas, relatively undisturbed, except for fishermen and climbers and a few other sports enthusiasts. There is a good footpath network until you come to the cliff tops from where you are taking your own risks, but to reduce disturbance and trampling damage you are asked to stick to the paths, be careful where you access and avoid disturbing this amazing wildlife as far as possible.
The rocks are covered in ancient, slow growing lichen – testament to our clean air – and numerous unusual plants cling to rock crevices, sheepsbit scabious, birdsfoot trefoil and common thrift all lend a palette of colour to the granite cliffs. This rich flora developed over millennia as the falling sea levels exposed a land bridge to mainland France and then rising again, cut us off as an island.
There is no fixed protection on the cliffs in Jersey and we also avoid cleaning rock surfaces. Lichens are slow to develop and plants may take many years to colonise areas of cliff face as small pockets of soil slowly build up for roots to dig into. However, if you know your plants you can help to conserve the environment by carefully removing and disposing of invasive alien plants, such as Hottentot fig (Carpobrotus edulis) and a number of other succulents. These plants spread rapidly to the detriment of our native flora. Feel free to remove any litter you may come across also.
The climbing season closely matches the nesting season for many birds which live in these coastal areas. You must avoid nesting and roosting birds, and if in doubt please choose another route, there are many to try. Many nest sites change from year to year, though there are a number of areas renowned for their bird life which should be avoided at all times. Please enquire locally and on the Jersey Rock Climbing Club website to see if there are any areas that should not be climbed.
Jersey is very proud of its outstanding environment and it is vigorously protected. Several of the areas which have good climbing have been designated as Sites of Special Interest for their botanical, zoological, geological, archaeological and ecological importance. All of the animals and all of the vegetation in these areas are protected from damage and disturbance, even the rocks themselves. Please go well out of your way to make sure that your presence in these spectacular areas does not contribute to the damage that they are protected from and do not leave anything behind when you return from your visit in order to keep them as pristine as possible.
Our cliffs and coast have been inhabited by man for thousands of years, the geology and the archaeology is outstanding and you may encounter old cave dwellings and other remains as well as the constructed tombs further inland. It is fascinating that we are able to enjoy and appreciate these areas as people have done for millennia.
Take care of yourself and our environment and I hope that if you have the time after absorbing your surroundings that you also enjoy the climbing.