First Tower Walk

This short walk takes you on a journey through Jersey’s transport history. Within a mile, we will go from the era of sailing ships to air travel, and explore some of the revolutionary steps that took place in between

Walk Details

  • 30 minutes
  • Starts at: First Tower
  • Ends at: Elizabeth Castle
  • 1 mile
  • Beginner
Street parking is limited but available along the sea wall. Bus routes 9, 12a, 15, 22 and 28

its name to this area, not because it was the first tower ever built, but because it was the first in a series of three towers that guarded St Aubin’s Bay. It was to number towers from one end of a bay to the other, and this was the case on most shorelines apart from St Ouen’s Bay, where the towers went in alphabetical order. This Tower was part of a chain of towers and forts built to defend the Island from French attack in the late 18th century.

Leave the tower and, using the crossing, walk towards the seawall. Once there, turn left and continue along the promenade towards St Helier.
A road with a granite tower at the end

First Tower

During the Occupation, the Nazi occupying forces heavily fortified the Island’s coastline, like this German Coastal Casemate. Traditional granite slipways, which allowed farmers access to the beach to collect vraic (seaweed) to fertilise their fields, were sometimes destroyed in the process.

A bunker built into a sea wall

German Coastal Casemate

Until a railway line ran from St Helier to St Aubin, the foreshore was dunes punctuated by boatyards. In the 1860s, Jersey was the fourth most important place in the British Isles for boat building. This was due to the low cost of ships built in Jersey. Boat builder F C Clarke, who built the largest ship in Jersey at his yard at West Park, said: ‘We can build ships more cheaply than in Liverpool, because Jersey men are sober, frugal and industrious, work six days a week with no unions to cause strike and no idlers to maintain’.

However, once steam ships and iron hulls became popular, it was impossible to remain competitive. It was ironic that a steam train, running along the beach just above the high water mark, effectively cut off the boat yards’ route to the sea.

A memorial stone set into a sea wall

Seawall rebuilding memorial stone

The Jersey Railway Company opened to the public in October 1870, running eight trains daily to St Aubin. By 1884, another line had been created, going from St Aubin’s Hospital to La Moye Quarries. It allowed passengers to alight at Don Farm Station, to go to St Peter’s Barracks (where the airfield is now) and St Brelade’s Bay.

The line was joined to the St Helier – St Aubin’s line in 1885, and the first through train ran on 5th August 1885. The following year the line was extended beyond La Moye Quarries to The Corbière Pavilion. By the 1920s, passengers were travelling to the horse racing at Don Farm, the golf course at Blanche Banques and the lighthouse at La Corbière.

a granite marker which shows 1 mile to St Helier

Mile marker

The seawall and promenade we are walking on, was built by 1880. The original plan suggested by Mr E Pickering the railway contractor, proposed a backfilled wall, allowing 30’ for the railway and 60’ for a road and promenade. By 1873, the railway company felt that the costs were prohibitive and the States Defence Committee had taken the job on.  In later years, as the railway struggled against competition from buses and private motor cars another new form of transport made its first appearance Jersey.

The first commercial flights to Jersey took place in the 1920s. Jersey Airways began operating in 1933 and used the beach at West Park as a runway with two buses for a waiting room and ticket office. Despite this basic infrastructure, and an airfield that disappeared under the tide twice a day, business grew steadily. In 1934 the airline carried over 20,000 passengers. Jersey Airway’s growth and reliability record prompted the Jersey Chamber of Commerce to call for a proper airfield to be built, and in 1937 Jersey Airport in St Peter was opened.

West Park Pool is a tidal seawater pool that was built to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897. It was originally called the Victoria Marine Lake and archive photographs show the beach lined with striped changing huts for the benefit of Victorian bathers.

A bathing pool in the sea

West Park Pool

Built on a rocky islet in St Aubin’s Bay, Elizabeth Castle has watched over Jersey’s main seaway for more than 300 years. At low tide you can walk out along the causeway or, if you want to experience a different way to travel, catch the amphibious Castle Ferry at low or high tide.
Elizabeth Castle is open daily between March and November.

Once you’ve completed your walk, head to the Elizabeth Castle Café (admission price to the Castle applies) for a well-earned cup of tea!

a castle with a walkway through an incoming tide

Elizabeth Castle