Day 3 – Zoo and antiquities
The main plan for today was to visit the Durrell Zoo – more properly known as the Durrell Wildlife Park. We set out on minor roads from St Aubin to the zoo, and found the minor roads delightful if occasionally rather steep. Some of these were the green lanes, on which drivers are restricted to 15mph, or in some cases barred.
While riding along we spotted a reinforced concrete structure sitting in a field. This turned out to be one of a set of five command bunkers from the German occupation. Now somewhat dilapidated, originally they were decked out with what would best be described as a ‘disguise’, and would have boasted fake roofs, chimneys and windows to make them look like farmhouses.
Arriving at the zoo, we locked the bike and lined up for tickets. Unfortunately, we’d arrived just as one of the buses from St Helier had arrived, so there was a bit of a wait. My initial impressions weren’t favourable – there seemed to be a huge number of Homo sapiens, mostly with kids in tow, who were making such a racket I figured most of the animals would be in shock. We solved this problem by taking a slightly random route through the zoo, and in fact the animals’ enclosures turned out to be very sympathetically designed and laid out. In fact in many cases it took some time to spot the animal! So I rate this zoo very highly. It wears its conservationist aim very loudly and makes no bones about what it’s there for. High points for me included the meerkats (against my more curmudgeonly tendencies generated by years of TV insurance adverts), the fruit bats and the aye aye. Not that you could actually see details of the aye aye, since it was in reverse light-dark!
After the zoo, we pressed on to the coast. We were thinking of visiting the Mont Orgueil castle at Gorey. Navigating the lanes with our dubious map of tourist attractions and my little Edge Touring GPS bike computer continued to be challenging but good fun. At one point we paused beside a hedge to discuss where we might be and how to reach Gorey, when a head popped up from behind the hedge with an offer of help! Reaching the coast, we met a cyclist who’d lost someone in the lanes – they’d got a policeman out looking for them! So it wasn’t just us enjoying the delights of the lanes.
Mont Orgueil Castle at Gorey is astonishingly beautiful but rather pricey to get in. There were other places we wished to visit, so we satisfied ourselves with an external view. We cycled on to La Hougue Bie, an amazing tunnel tomb with a medieval church on top. In the 18th century, the landowner erected a fake gothic pile on top, which has subsequently been removed. More recently, the occupying Germans built an observation bunker here as the site is one of the highest points on the island.
Getting into the tunnel of the tomb was a bit difficult because a small coach party of tourists was already in there, but when we did it was really quite amazing. Our previous cycling trips had included the neolithic sites in Orkney, and this is every bit as impressive as Maes Howe. At midsummer, the sunlight streams along the tunnel and illuminates the chamber at the end.
The German WW2 bunker at La Hougue Bie has pretty much been removed, save for some of the underground passages, which have been converted to a memorial to the slave labourers who were so badly treated in the war, and to some of the islanders who were murdered as a consequence of trying to help them. The site has an excellent museum, though we didn’t really spend much time in the geology section. When we came out of the museum, we discovered there had been a rain shower, which was quite good since it had finished by the time we started cycling again!
We made our way back to St Aubin via lanes in a route complicated by roadworks and diversions. This took us past the island’s sewage works, which was less than attractive!
Once again, we had dinner at Bracewell’s. This time I indulged in scallops for starter, mackerel for main course and ice cream (including wasabi, seaweed and black butter flavours). My stoker had a crispy duck salad for starter, pasta with prawns and a banana creme brulee. Once again, a very nice meal.