The Final Word

 

The beginning of March finally gives me the opportunity to tie up the loose ends on our 2015 Autism Guernsey 365 Project, which took place every Wednesday throughout last year in the form of walking around the coast of Guernsey 13 times, a quarter every week, irrespective of weather conditions on the day, and cleaning cliff path steps. Our original target was, like all other participants, to raise £365 in 365 days, by me doing the walking around the cliff and coastal paths of Guernsey in the 52 weekly walks, and both my wife, Angela, and I also cleaning 365 cliff path steps in and around the Moulin Huet / Saints Bay area. The whole project is documented in this blog, outlining the story throughout the year through the eyes of both myself and Angela.

I cannot thank enough the many people who have contributed financially to the project; there are several examples of individual donations that are documented in the blog, but the final outcome is that we have paid into Autism Guernsey a staggering £2,555, which in fact represents 7 times the £365 that we originally set out to raise!

Finally I could not finish this last blog entry without thanking Anne and Clive, who were both so committed to and supportive of my weekly walking programme whenever they were available, and my wife, Angela, who not only completed my weekly blog, but helped me clean cliff path steps, and supported me throughout this demanding project.

Last word from Angela – I had the easy bit, believe me, but it has been an honour and a privilege to support my husband through this huge undertaking, seeing his grit and determination to get through the hard stages, and his delight at the many expressions of true charity and generosity he experienced on the way. I’m not sure his knees will fully recover, but that doesn’t stop him continuing with his activities – maybe not quite so demanding as the Icart to Pleinmont stretch of the cliff path, however! Thank you one and all who helped him achieve the truly magnificent sum he raised – every penny a valuable contribution for the work so needed, fulfilled by Autism Guernsey.

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We recently enjoyed a well-earned break in Lisbon with Andy, our son, whose brainchild Autism Guernsey was, and the Autism365 project. He worked so hard to set it up and establish it – now he is working on new projects, but they will still be for the benefit of those on the autistic spectrum.

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Week 52 – all done!

Wednesday 30th December 2015 – 52/52 – Pembroke to St. Peter Port

The day finally arrived: my very last charity walk, 52/52, from Pembroke Bay to St Peter Port. Driving along the seafront at Les Banques the sight of the sea thundering into the sea wall at a rate of knots and coming right over the road left me under no illusions that today’s weather was going to be easy for walking. Arriving at Pembroke and finding the wind blowing strongly was obviously no surprise, but my attention was completely distracted from it when I realised how many people had turned up for this last walk. Clive had brought along 10 members of his family; there was Sue, who had done walks previously with us; 84 year-old George from Club Bon Amis; Karen representing education in Autism on the island, with her beautiful dog, Dexter; Jill, a director from Autism Guernsey, and Peter, representing a specific social club group who regularly support good causes in raising money and donating to them. He had promised me way back in April that he would help me out with my fund raising walks and he duly obliged today. I must add at this point how grateful I was to all of these people, not only for them all coming along today for the walk but for the very kind and substantial donations I received from them as well.

Intrepid Eric on his wayThe strong wind made for some spectacular sea scenes as we made our way along the well-trodden coastal path to Bordeaux Harbour, but it was difficult with the wind blowing directly at us or pushing us sideways. Being very much aware of the predicted wet weather forecast for later in the morning the group were conscious of keeping up a good pace, and it was some relief for all of us to get into the country lanes and sheltered from the wind. Nicole, a former work colleague, joined in the walk as this point – it was great to see her again after last seeing her complete the Sally Davies cliff walk way back in April this year. I loved seeing the sheep and Guernsey goats once more, they have been such a feature on this leg throughout the year.

Back out on the walkway near Bordeaux Harbour that has such spectacular views across to the other islands, the strong wind was whipping up the sea and it was somewhat challenging to any seafarers out in that channel today.

Arriving at Bordeaux Kiosk the clouds were getting darker so we decided not to stop, unless, of course, we needed the toilet facilities, which fortunately at this location were open, but throughout the island at this time of the year most public toilets on the coastal and cliff paths are usually closed!

Onwards we went past Vale Castle and through both the North and South Sides of The Bridge, and we were quickly through to Richmond Corner with the finishing line in sight. It was amazing that whilst walking towards the Red Lion a large van stopped and the driver put a £5 note in my bucket, just one of the many staggering acts of kindness I have witnessed at first hand throughout this project.

The wind was still causing us problems all along the front towards the Longstore and there was imminent rain in the air as we moved through to the Salerie. By the time we got to the North Beach we were all rather wet and the weather was pretty miserable.

The last 500 yards of this whole-year project was upon us, and we headed towards Boots and the final finishing line around 12.30, all somewhat wet but relieved that we had made it in good time, despite the poor weather on the way.IMG_3321

I was very grateful that the Guernsey Press were there to see us finish, take photographs and do interviews – their support throughout the year has been much appreciated and has not only raised the profile of Autism Guernsey but generated additional financial sponsorship for the Autism365 Project.

I cannot thank enough all of the walkers who turned out today for the final leg of this series of 52 walks throughout 2015, I was most appreciative of their support today which not only seemed a befitting finish to the project but added greatly to the fund raising.

Finally I would like to say thank you to my wife Angela for supporting me throughout 2015, her unswerving support in keeping me going, editing the weekly blog and getting stuck in with the additional ‘step cleaning’ project’, has been invaluable.

And finally, finally, may I take the opportunity to wish the Board, the professional staff and all of their clients associated with Autism Guernsey, every success for 2016.

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Andy, Eric, Clive and Sue in July, with our grandson George.

ANGELA – I just wish to say how very proud I am of my husband for his tenacity and strength of purpose in completing this year’s challenge. He has battled on regardless of bad weather, family bereavement, and a broken collarbone – all at different times, of course! – but he has faithfully completed every leg, either on the scheduled day or on his own when he was able to do so. He has raised a fabulous amount of money for Autism Guernsey, very fittingly, as it was our son Andy whose baby it was, and who worked incredibly hard for over three and a half years, researching and networking and then establishing and building it up to what it is today. Andy also had the brainwave of Autism365, the challenge to raise £365 in 365 days, and Eric has raised at least 6 times that amount this year, so you can probably see how this became such an important project for us, and why we are so grateful for all the support and the donations received. Thank you to all who have read this blog and corresponded with us – it has been great to have your input.

 

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Week 51

Wednesday 23rd December 2015 – 51/52 – Pleinmont to Pembroke Bay.
What a beautiful sunny morning for the penultimate leg of this 52nd week of my charity walks throughout 2015! It was great to have Clive along with me again this morning, who will, to his huge credit and with huge commitment, have done 33 of these legs with me when we finish on the 30th December.Fort Grey
Walking past Fort Grey for the last time this year brought the memories flooding back, from many swimming in this area in warm, sunny conditions to the waves smashing over the sea wall and covering the road in seaweed and pebbles in more stormy conditions. Talking of seaweed, L’Eree will always remind me of the strong, pungent smell it gives off as there is always a huge amount washed up in this area.
Good weather conditions enabled us to make good time and in no time we were walking through Perelle and onwards to Richmond corner, heading towards the golden sands of Vazon Bay. Much to my surprise the Richmond Kiosk was open and appeared to be doing well from the passing trade who love to park up nearby and use the facility. There were quite a few people on the beach with the tide well out on this mild, sunny morning.
On we went past the ever busy Vistas Cafe at Vazon and around to Albecq. It was great to meet Maya Le Tissier, out road running, heading in the opposite direction to us. Maya has recently been chosen for England Schools under 15s, a tremendous honour for this very talented Guernsey schoolgirl, the first female Guernsey footballer to be chosen to play for England.
North across CoboCobo Bay, bathed in sunshine on this December morning and with the tide well out, looked picture postcard, although there was not a lot of people on the beach, a total contrast to the busy summer months when there are many holidaymakers and locals using the popular resort.
The masses of granite rock around the Grandes Rocques area always look their best in the sunshine and it seemed rather befitting that this was the case today. There was quite a number of people around enjoying the mild and sunny weather, and it was an opportunity also for Clive and myself to reflect on some of our more demanding walks.
The pace of today’s walk meant we were likely to beat my record previous 3 hours time for this leg, set some time ago during one of my solo legs. The temperature must have been around 13/14 degrees as we passed through the Port Soif area; needless to say the Kiosk was open today with customers sitting on the benches outside.
Approaching Rousse brought back some nice memories, none more so than those mouth-watering crab sandwiches that Philippa serves up at the Rousse Kiosk, one of the most popular and picturesque settings on the island, today closed for the winter break.
With the tide well out it would have been quite easy to walk across the picturesque Grande Havre Bay to the other side but we kept to the recognised coastal path that we have trekked along 12 previous times this year. Passing through the play area at Les Amarreurs it was great to see so many parents and grandparents with their children out playing in the area at this time of the year. On and over the golf club and one last look at the sea on its way back in again and the superb beach at Chouet. It was a good day for golfers in these weather conditions as we passed the Golf Club for the very last time this year and home to the bus stop at Pembroke Bay, where we crossed the line at around 12.50, undoubtedly the best time this year for this leg of our round-the-island walks.
We also met up with Juliet Pouteaux and Tom Tardif from the Guernsey Press who, very kindly, are doing an article on the walk we had completed today.

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Facts and Figures and personal thoughts from Eric’s 2015 Autism Guernsey 365 challenge and blog (www.angebg.com)

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Ready for anything!

I will have walked around the Guernsey cliff and coastal path network on 52 separate occasions this year, been around the island 13 times, covered some 500 miles over the year, and I will have walked up/down 45,487 steps over the 52 week period on 13 occasions between St Peter Port and Pleinmont.

In addition I also completed the Sally Davies Walk in April from St Peter Port to Pleinmont as well as walking around Herm in 2015.

Here we go

The Start

Steps, steps and more steps

There are 1,575 steps between the Aquarium, St Peter Port, and Icart Point.

There are 1,924 between Icart Point and Pleinmont.

The legs from St Peter Port to Pleinmont have a total of 3,499 steps.

There are 87 steps between the Aquarium and Clarence Battery.

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Steps at St. Martin’s Point

There are 273 steps, including 46 in the lower section of steps up St Martin’s Point.

To climb down to Petit Port you will need to go down 294 steps – and back up!

View Petit Port to Icart

294 steps down to this gorgeous beach

To climb up the steps from Saints Bay to re-join the cliff path at the top, you will need to climb up 304 steps.

My most challenging leg

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Drenched but determined!

This has got to be back in August on the Icart to Pleinmont leg, which I had to do solo, in torrential rain at times, and with my arm in a sling. I am most grateful that my wife Angela checked me through the various stages, wherever possible in her car.

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Lone figure appearing through the murk

Most poignant memories

Two very much stick out in my mind:

I was cleaning steps in the Saints Bay area when a mum and three children came by, two boys and a young girl; the mum stopped and made a generous donation into my collecting tin. The two boys rushed past me with beaming smiling faces and headed to a bench and viewing spot above Saints Bay. Somewhat bemused by their behaviour I asked mum why were they so excited, she then told me the two boys were from Chernobyl here on holiday and had never seen the sea prior to arriving in Guernsey. I was in absolute pieces when she told me that!

On another occasion I had just finished a leg from Pleinmont to Pembroke Bay on a lovely, warm, sunny day, and I was waiting in the car park beside the beach kiosk for the bus to come down. All of a sudden I felt a tap on the back of my leg. Looking around, I saw very small boy, maybe 18 months – 2 years old, who never said a word but held out both his hands out to me. He opened them, still not saying anything, and they were full of small change to put in my collecting tin – a lovely moment, and I was most grateful to his parents, who were visitors to the Island.

The generosity of people has never failed to amaze me, as I have never approached people for a donation – they have always approached me and put money in the Autism Guernsey collecting box I carry with me on my walks. There are certain times, like above, which I have documented in my blog (www.angebg.com), where I have almost been reduced to tears with the individual generosity I have experienced.

Personal thoughts

IMG_0423I am very much indebted to my regular walking colleagues, Clive, Anne and Sue, and to my son Andy – who dreamed up and established Autism Guernsey and the 365 Challenge – who have joined me at regular times during the year, and to other individuals who have come along for a one-off walk.

The oldest walker was Alex at 83 who did the Icart to Pleinmont leg comfortably, and the youngest was my 6 year-old grandson, George, who completed the 11 mile stretch from Pleinmont to Pembroke Bay, along with his Uncle Andy on a day in August – a lovely, proud family occasion. He even wanted to walk back!

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Andy, Eric and George – three generations of gorgeous Grahams!

Considering that the average age of my regular walkers is well over 60, it is in part their drive, enthusiasm and passion that has inspired me to keep going. With Club Bons Amis already providing outdoor opportunities for walking groups for older people here on the Island and the emergence of a U3A branch here in Guernsey, the future is bright for activities for our more senior citizens.buzzard_5445

I really cannot emphasise enough how much more I appreciate the natural beauty of this fabulous island of Guernsey, where I have been privileged to live and bring up a family since 1982. Throughout this marathon session of 52 weeks of walking the cliff and coastal paths I was continually stimulated by everything around me on the 36 miles route, available to both locals and tourists alike, in whatever sections you may wish to walk .

Guernsey’s greatest asset is its natural beauty and tourists will always come here to enjoy walking in and around all parts of the island.

Finally I would like to say a big thank you to my wife Angela, who has been my main rock in seeing me through this challenge in 2015. Ange and 73 steps - all cleanAlthough Angela did not do any of the weekly walks (dodgy knees!) we worked together on cleaning the steps in and around Moulin Huet and all of the work in editing and compiling the weekly blog is very much down to her skills and commitment, a huge task.

ANGELA – a very small task in comparison to the actual walks! Eric is amazing, very determined, and has pushed himself to the limit on these walks, some of which have been quite “hairy” – see Eric’s comment “My most challenging leg” above! – and I am full of admiration for his strength of will and purpose in completing this challenge, and his integrity in ensuring that Autism Guernsey benefits every time – the fact that it is our son’s “baby” is a spur – we are both so proud that he made his dream reality and has provided the island with a service it desperately needed. I am including below a tweet from Guernsey FC following their last match before Christmas:”@boroeric won £396 thanks to the 50-50 and £100 in the raffle, which he donated back to GFC and @autismguernsey”. This is so typical of the wonderful man I am proud to call my husband.

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ERIC – I am completing this section of the blog prior to us going off to the mainland for Christmas with our family and having, hopefully, completed leg 51/52 from Pleinmont to Pembroke Bay; to date (22-12-15) the total raised is a very healthy £1,548 with still 2 legs to complete.

A very Merry Christmas and a happy New Year to all who read our blog and best wishes to everyone concerned with Autism Guernsey for the year 2016.

Dud in GPress12.1.15

 

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Week 50

Wednesday 16th December 2015 – 50/52 – Icart Point to Pleinmont

Today was the 13th and very last time on this Icart to Pleinmont stretch, which I consider to be the most difficult and demanding of this whole 4 x 13 week marathon charity walking project.

I met Anne S off the No 81 bus and we were very soon joined by Clive S for our start at Icart Point. IMG_2999Weather conditions were favourable, despite the sky being somewhat dull, with the temperature around 14 degrees, very mild for this time of the year. It was great to have both Anne and Clive with me again today – both now in their 70s I may add; this would be Anne’s last walk as she will be off island for Christmas and New Year. They have both been absolute rocks of support throughout 2015, having participated in many of the weekly walks as well as making generous donations to the project.

As we set off along the craggy and winding cliff path route there was a south-westerly wind, which made for dramatic sea views with the waves crashing into the rocks along the coastline. IMG_0562The topic of conversation very much centred on just how mild it was here in the middle of December, a huge bonus today on this section where poor weather conditions just add to the difficult walking terrain. Despite the difficulties the views are just staggeringly spectacular and well worth the additional physical and mental efforts you need to make. Arriving at Petit Bot we were reaching to take off at least one layer of clothing, it was so mild, and navigating the steep climb up the steps to the top of the valley has always been a real lung buster. What a view from the top of here, though, not only of the sea but back up the valley of Petit Bot. I often wonder just how many locals and holidaymakers have this shot in their photographic collections.

Although weather conditions were mild there were very few people about as we headed on towards Le Gouffre. Approaching Le Gouffre from the eastThe walk back down the steep cliff path steps is again just breathtakingly beautiful with the sea as spectacular as it was today, just adding that extra dimension. Climbing up again towards the Gouffre cafe we met a lone local walker who was also anxious to take in the sea views today. It was very quiet around the tearooms as they are closed over the Christmas period, so we quickly moved on towards the Snail House and then up through the National Trust land towards La Corbiere. From La Corbiere towards Le BigardAnne, who only normally walks this far on this particular leg, left us at the car park, and Clive and I headed towards Les Tielles, knowing full well the physical and mental challenges we faced: what appears to be an endless “up and down” of cliff path steps, that at times are different heights and depths. There is, in my opinion, only one way to approach this stretch, a strategy I have adopted on all 13 legs I have completed this year, and that is to just hit it as hard as you possibly can, both physically and mentally, and that is just what we did again today. The rewards are just staggering, not only knowing you have completed the section, but it is also an outstanding area of natural beauty that you never get fed up of seeing, irrespective of whatever walking conditions you meet on the day.

The stretch from Les Tielles to Pleinmont is still difficult in certain areas: with Pleinmont Point being very exposed at the westerly point of the island is usually quite windy, but there are also still a lot more steps to climb up or down. Additionally there are quite a number of German fortifications in this area, which I always enjoying seeing, and I have been observing throughout the year just how many other locals and holidaymakers make the effort to visit and study part of Guernsey’s history. The wind was stronger today on Pleinmont Point, but not as strong as I thought it might have been, and there was no rain, which had been a distinct possibility based on the forecast earlier in the morning. I would have been disappointed today had I not seen a bird of prey on my last trip, but up popped a kestrel to give us a fly past and salute – most fitting, having seen many on the 13 trips in this area of Guernsey.

Le Hanois Lighthouse from Pleinmont PointDescending from the Point at Pleinmont and onto the coast road heading towards the Kiosk and toilets at Portelet gave both us the time to reflect on our personal experiences on this tough leg; Clive is very much at home and knows this leg very well as he often walks in the area, while for me there was a huge feeling of relief at having completed all 13 legs throughout the year for the project. What staggers me more than anything is this – having taken the trouble to count the cliff path steps with a clicker machine there are 1, 924 steps between Icart and Pleinmont, and 1,575 between The Aquarium, St Peter Port, and Icart. If you add these together and multiply x 13(legs), then it works out at a staggering 45,487 steps walked, either up or down throughout 2015 on this project!

We had a bonus this week in that, on Saturday at the Guernsey FC match, I was fortunate to win 2 draws, one for £396 and one for £100. I split the money between GFC and my Autism365 challenge, then received a very generous donation for £50 and another for £13, meaning that I will be passing on to Autism Guernsey as part of my 365 Challenge donations a very welcome £363!

 

 

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Steps again

As the project and blog for our Autism365 Challenge enters the final weeks of December
and we have an end in sight for our efforts, I have taken the opportunity in the last few days to go back down to the Moulin Huet area of the island and re-clean some of the sets of cliff path steps there. At this time of the year they do tend to get clogged up with layers of wet, mouldy leaves which can, on occasions, be very slippy for walkers and runners should they get their feet on them.

Earlier in the year my wife and I cleaned well over 365 steps in this area as part of our project, but like the Forth Bridge in Scotland, you really need to start again immediately after you have finished in order to keep on top of the work necessary for regular maintenance.

Eric and the 73 steps

Eric in Spring

I have managed to clean some 136 steps over the last couple of days, mainly comprising of the 55 steps leading up the middle area of Moulin Huet, accessing the cliff path route from the car park near the toilet block, as well as the steepest cliff path steps emerging near Bon Port Hotel which are in the middle and upper area as you walk up the steps from the bay at the bottom. The layers just build up as the leaves fall, and I was quite taken aback by just how much was stuck to the steps.

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View from steps

It was, however, a very nice feeling to see the steps clean and fully functional again, although it would be naive to think that they will look so good if we have a spell of strong blustery winds in these winter months.

I just love this area of the coastal path and feel very privileged to live so close and have such easy access Moulin Huet and surrounding areas.

 

 

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Week 49

Wednesday 9th December 2015 – 49/52 – St. Peter Port to Icart Point

I caught the bus in St Martin’s with Anne S as we headed for the town terminus and the beginning of the 13th circumnavigation of the island. What a fabulous morning it was, with blue skies, a gentle SSW breeze and temperatures around 12-13 degrees, much more like an early spring day than a December winter day. Clive S was already there waiting for us at the Aquarium, so we set off with a spring in our step and headed for the Fort George area and then on to Fermain Bay.

One of the distinct advantages of the mild conditions is the fact that the cliff paths have not got too wet and boggy as they can so often do at this time of the year; there are lots of leaves on the paths, but at least they are dry.

There was no-one around at Fermain, despite the sun shining brightly; it looked “picture postcard” as we looked down from the viewing point at the opposite side of the valley. I just love this walk from here on to St Martin’s Point as it is so sheltered and the views are just spectacular; Clive says that the view through the pine trees and on to the other islands and the sea is one of his favourite Guernsey views: that is one of the reasons this is also his favourite leg of the 4 round-the-island walks.

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Old post card of the Pine Forest

Pine Forest to Town

View from the Pine Forest to St. Peter Port

 

 

 

Climbing the steps up St. Martin’s Point was really hard work IMG_3249today despite the mild conditions, and both Anne and I were struggling by the time we reached the top. Angela, my wife, was there to greet us as she had brought Andy, our son, to join us. She had already dropped him off at Doyle Monument as they did not know exactly where we would be, and he was heading back towards us on the cliff path from Petit Port. Anne decided not to miss the opportunity of a lift back home with Angela at this point – normally she would drop off just before Moulin Huet and head back home into St Martin’s and leave me and Clive to continue on to Icart, but today she felt she had done enough.

We met up with Andy just before La Moye Battery; I was delighted he was able to join us for this leg as he has now completed the majority of the 4 walks around the island, and considering he was the originator of the Autism 365 project for Autism Guernsey, it was important to him to get a good feel of just what it entailed for people involved. The Pea Stacks, six giant rocks in this area, looked superb today – no wonder Renoir was so keen to paint them.

Petit Port was also well worth a photograph today as the tide was out, exposing those lovely golden sands and craggy rocks. petit_port2On we went around to Moulin Huet, and, taking the lower steps today, we were able to get a very clear view of the battery that recently was featured in a double colour spread by reporter Rob Batiste for the local newspaper, the Guernsey Press.

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The old battery and guard house at Moulin Huet

We took the opportunity of a water break when we arrived at the viewing point high above the wonderful sea views near the now empty Bon Port Hotel, and then carried on to Saints Bay via the new path, which Andy had not been on before. It is great to see how well established it has now become: I would think that for those people who do not know, it would seem that the new path has been around for a lot longer than it has.

As this was the last time we would be doing this leg I also deviated from the cliff path steps heading up to the exit for the Saints Bay Hotel, as there is an alternative route which also brings you back to that spot at the top and gives you panoramic views right across Saints Bay and back to Petit Port and The Pea Stacks.

Above Saints' to St. Martin's Point

Above Saints Bay to Petit Port

From here to the finishing line at Icart takes another 15-20 minutes at a good walking pace and we arrived at Icart Point just after 1pm.

They were lovely conditions for the completion of this leg from St Peter Port to Icart for the very last time; we had all enjoyed the very best of what Guernsey has to offer cliff walkers today.

The photograph of the Pea Stacks is courtesy of Julian Osley –

 

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