La Fosse Vourin

One of the most extraordinary features to be found on Jersey’s south west coast is the combined cave and cavern of La Fosse Vourin, near La Moye point. From the cliffs above the site is dramatic enough – a huge hole in the ground disappearing into darkness – but what makes it even more exciting is that the “hole” can be accessed from the seaward side via a cave.

The collapsed cave roof. When I was a kid, the hole was almost filled to the brim with wrecked cars and other junk. People used to push cars over the cliff into the hole as a way of dumping them. According to my father, a significant chunk of medical equipment was also dumped down there. Over 40+ years, all that metal has eroded down, and some of it has been washed out to sea. The cave is under my feet…

It’s a little expedition I’ve wanted to do for a year or more, but the cave is only accessible at very low tides, and for one reason or another the chance had eluded me. Until this last Friday, which was a particularly low tide.

The descent into the gully is not for the faint hearted. I picked a careful route down a black dolerite dyke, but it was steep and sometimes slippery, and at my advanced age I am less confident doing this sort of thing than I used to be. Adding to the drama, there was a colossal swell sending huge waves surging into the gully, with a high level of audio accompaniment. Fortunately, the entrance to the cave is protected by a barrier of colossal boulders, so with that comforting thought, I moved on.

The view on the lower part of the climb – the black rock running down the centre of the photo is a dolerite dyke.

Once down into the gully, the cave is a narrow crack ahead of you. I particularly liked the huge block of dislodged granite to the upper left, precariously balanced on a ledge.

Looking back from the entrance of the cave, the view is spectacular. Towering granite cliffs on either side, and just a narrow gully between them.

The view from the throat of the cave. The barrier of large boulders is visible in the centre of the photo.

Heading into the cave, you quickly become aware that this is a cave like no other. The floor is a mix of rounded boulders and rusting metal. It’s a whole geological layer, with skeletal remains sticking out from the compacted gunk. Archaeologists typically dig up the rubbish tips and refuse of our distant ancestors – this is the same thing, mixed in with natural cave sediments.

Some of the pools have larger chunks of metal, half submerged, with the water turning brown from the constant leaking of rust. It’s an extraordinary sight, with all manner of metal artefacts cropping up everywhere. There are even some railway lines down there.

Railway line running along the right of frame…

Deeper into the cave, and you finally reach the collapsed section. Directly overhead is a huge boulder wedged across the cliffs.

This shot is taken looking almost vertically upwards. It’s at the limits of the iPhone’s ability to handle shadows and extreme contrast…

But as so often in a cave, the true glory comes when you look back towards the entrance. More by luck than judgement I was there with the sun at a low angle, and shining into the cave at just a slight angle. The resulting light was spectacular.

The iPhone was happier with this situation..
Looking back down the cave, with water pouring from the roof

I had a tripod with me to take photos, but it was really hard to concentrate on technique with water dripping continuously of the roof, and with added pressure coming from the knowledge that the tide had now turned, and would shortly be cutting off my escape route. I made my way out, with the roar of the surging waves adding to the sense of jeopardy. There’s something about being at the bottom of a deep gully with pounding waves so close by that got to me. I felt my mouth go dry as I realised that the sea had started crashing over the big boulders that protected the entrance to the cave. Disoriented by the noise and the sea’s position higher up the gully than when I’d arrived, I had to focus hard to find the route back up to safety. Eventually I found a climbable line, and clambered away from the maelstrom below.

The sea closing in, the boulder barrier breached…

When I arrived on the cliff top it was to find a string of missed calls and messages. My eldest son had dislocated his knee cap playing football. One adventure had ended, another very different drama was just beginning…

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