Jersey, the largest of the Channel Islands, provides a plethora of truly beautiful places to explore and Val de La Mare Reservoir and Arboretum is among them. With an abundance of trees, dense flora and wildlife from around the world, Val de La Mare is an impressive spot that makes for an amazing change of scene from both the jaw-dropping coastline and the glossy centre of St Helier.
If you are looking for a new hike, to spend some valuable time in nature, or just a new Jersey gem to get to know, head to Val de La Mare. On the West Coast, crossing the parishes of St Peter and St Ouen, it is a great place to refresh your mind and get some inspiration. Translated to Catalan, Val de la Mare means ‘wave from the sea’ but the suspected meaning in Jerrais – Jersey’s own largely dis-used language – is ‘valley of the pond’. As the second largest reservoir on the island, it is around 2.8 miles to walk the full circuit around the trails, although it must be noted there are little paths that shoot off. They are not maintained so it is advised to stick to the provided route, but prepared adventurers can find a few secret walks around the area.
When there, Val de la Mare feels like it must have been around for hundreds of years. But in actuality the land was purchased in only 1955 and the reservoir was constructed in 1962 due to concerns regarding water shortages. Containing 938.7 megalitres of water, the reservoir is estimated to be able to supply the entire island with water for five weeks if ever needed. The water is untreated, with only machinery on the reservoir floor to aerate and mix it in order to maintain quality and cleanliness. The reservoir looks more like a great, vast lake and it is very easy to forget that it was ever man-made. Note that it is not suitable for swimming, but with so many gorgeous spots to take a dip across the island this is not all that devastating.
The towering dam is the half-way point around Val de la Mare, standing at 192 metres long and 32 metres high. The structure holds back approximately 900 million litres of water after updates in 2011 due to alkali damage, at which point a waterproof membrane was installed to provide some long-term protection. Upon reaching the dam, you will find stunning outward views of the sea at St Ouen’s Bay. If you don’t wish to cross the dam and complete the full circuit, there is a narrow path down into the valley below. From that point, you can make your way to the dunes and the beach-front. On your way, you can find a six-loophole turret bunker, also referred to as a sechsschartenturn, which is the only one of its type built in the Channel Islands during the 1940s over the German Occupation. Rooted in La Mare Mill, it is a secondary defence bunker with heavy machine-gun turrets, a series of rooms with an overall triangular, concrete design and a particularly complex escape shaft. Now restored and open to the public, it is camouflaged and can only be entered down a hidden, rock-lined alley. For those interested in the history of the island, it is well worth venturing into the valley too.
The Arboretum surrounds the reservoir and was originally created in 1975 after the Moores family donated money to the States of Jersey to create it in remembrance of their son Nigel. Hundreds of seedlings were nursed and planted but sadly, after years of neglect and particularly bad storms, the area became extremely overgrown and needed maintenance badly. Because of this, the Arboretum came to be known as the Forgotten Forest. Back in 2012, Jersey Trees for Life Charity restored the Arboretum, additionally planting an abundance of trees from all over the world. When visiting, you will note the trees are grouped into sections based on their native origins. Of course, flora attracts fauna. Val de la Mare is renowned for bird-watching and you can spot a plenty of wildlife there, popular guests being owls, herons, ducks and moorhens.
Val de la Mare has two car parks – one at the top of the expanse and one at the bottom – which are both free to use. If using Jersey’s Liberty Bus Service, Val de la Mare can be reached by the 9, 22 and 28 routes. Unfortunately, cycling is prohibited and due to the uneven terrain of the paths, the reservoir has no disabled access. Dogs are happily allowed but should be kept on a lead, and there is one portaloo present along the main walking route. There are also a number of benches around the site. Val de la Mare is open all year round, all day long, which allows visitors to be entirely flexible and spontaneous. Plus, it is completely free to enter.
Val de la Mare Reservoir and Arboretum makes for a brilliant final post of 2020; a place where you can take in some clean fresh air, really let go of everything and get back to nature, which is always important no matter what is going on in life. Sending light, power and peace out for the beginning of the New Year and hoping this inspires you to pay a trip there when on Jersey. If you have been before let me know what you thought in the comments, and if you enjoyed reading don’t forget to drop a like and follow to get more content like this delivered to your inbox.