Jersey granite

Since we returned to live in Jersey I have become obsessed with the use of granite in various walls, houses, slipways, gates and fortifications.

Granite is embedded deep in Jersey’s DNA. It has been the building stone of choice for thousands of years, back to the earliest prehistoric monuments. Today there are only a couple of quarries working in the island, but you can see the remains of hundreds of disused quarries dotted around. Some were incredibly small and local – opened up just to build a single house or wall. Others were massive and supplied stone not just for Jersey, but for export. In London, significant parts of the pavement and embankment at Westminster are made from granite that was dug out of a quarry less than a mile from where I live.

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A piece of granite in detail. The orange colour is feldspar, the milky grey is quartz, the black is hornblende. Shot on iPhone SE

Even though Jersey is a small island (9 miles by 5), and granite only covers about a third of that area, there are many different varieties that can easily be distinguished, even by the non practiced eye. On the north coast the huge quarry at Mont Mado (now filled in) produced a distinctive grey granite with a purple tinge. It is found in buildings all over the island. Granite in the south western corner is known as Corbiere granite, or Beauport granite, according to the locale, and varies in grain size, mineral composition and colouring.

Sometimes it is the variety of colour that catches my eye, sometimes it’s the patterns formed by the stonemasons,  sometimes a small detail, sometimes the fluid design. There’s something about the interaction of human hand in creating a granite structure, and then the way that nature takes it back, softening the lines through erosion, establishing lichen and plant colonies, and turning it into an almost living thing that creates almost accidental beauty.

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The sweep of Petit Port slipway, with the backwash of a wave running down.
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Backwash waves on the cobbles of Petit Port slipway
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The sweep of the sea wall at Petit Port. The stonemasons had a natural eye. Shot on an Olympus OM1 on colour negative film
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Detail in the sea wall, Petit Port
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The cobblestone slip at Petit Port. The concrete section covers a part of the slip that was ripped up during WW2 by the Germans so they could embed anti tank traps. Shot on an Olympus OM1 film camera, black and white film
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This particular stone in the sea wall at Petit Port is a favourite of mine – the richness of the  yellow lichen colour is tremendous. Shot on iPhone SE
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This wall is at the top of Mont Pinel in St Ouen’s: a stunning example of how nature colonises old granite walls.
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Detail, Mont Pinel
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La Rue de Mahaut, St Ouen, just off Mont Pinel
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I absolutely love the way this gable end is embedded in the wall – it seems to grow into (or out of) the rock on either side. Photographed with Olympus OM1 film camera
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This wall is near the house above (at the top of Le Haule hill) – an example of a flowing, sinuous wall shape, exaggerated by the use of a Horizon 202 swing lens film camera
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Ouaisne hill, also photographed with Horizon 202 swing lens film camera
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Harbour wall, St Helier. The rusty iron railing has become a part of the wall. Taken with Olympus OM1 film camera, colour negative converted to black and white
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Beautiful lichen colours on this drystone wall, Belcroute hill
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Belcroute Hill: I’ve always loved the way the wall here has become an organic part of the bank – soil, wall, more soil
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The perquage (sanctuary) path from St Brelade’s church to the beach. Such gorgeous colours
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St Aubin’s Fort. Terrific masonry on the approach from the harbour, taken on iPhone SE
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Just behind St Aubin’s harbour: an interesting mix of black shale and granite cobblestones on the slipway.
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St Aubin’s fort: the interface between granite wall and shale bedrock. Crude steps have been cut in the shale alongside the wall, perhaps to make access easier during construction
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Looking up at the harbour wall, St Aubin. Taken with Horizon 202 swing lens film camera
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St Ouen’s sea wall, near El Tico. Lovely, subtle mix of colours
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Wide shot of the sea wall near Watersplash, St Ouen’s Bay
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Ludicrous sunset light on the rounded granite blocks of the sea wall at El Tico, St Ouen’s Bay
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Complex granite paving and sea wall along St Ouen’s bay, with some shale mixed in

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