Standing on a ribbon of mustard sand, the muted petrol blue of the sea mirroring the sky, I feel utterly remote. A row of houses in delicate pastel shades lines the curve of the bay in the distance, while the menacing mass of Mont Orgueil Castle – my eventual destination for the morning – looms above them, a hulking great guard dog of a thing.
Several hundred metres away, a hound gambols happily in the spray; his owner strides behind him, head down, hood up. And that’s it, company-wise.
Inspired by the near-perfect solitude, I start to sing, tentatively at first, then less so, crescendo-ing into a full-throated rendition of “Bread of Heaven” (well, it is Sunday after all).
This starkly beautiful strip of beach is on Jersey’s idyllic east coast, and come summer the place will be stacked with bodies sunbathing, swimming and surfing, drawn here by the biggest Channel Island’s sun-soaked climate. But this is late November – and that means I have the whole coastline pretty much to myself. It is euphoria for a city kid in need of some hermit time.
My only previous experience of the island was a visit to a university friend during the summer holidays, and I’ll forever associate the place with long, lazy days, driving from beach to beach, paddling, scrambling over rocks and jumping from cliffs into the deep water below. We ate burgers and drank milk fresh from a Jersey cow under a cloudless sky; it was more Enid Blyton novel than real life.
A decade and several seasons later, winter-time Jersey in 2018 offers a different prospect altogether. But one, I’d argue, that’s equally charming.
As I skip on towards the castle from my drop-off point at the Seymour pub (even out of season the island has a refreshingly regular and reliable roster of buses), the air is fresh yet mild, sun-tipped, on the brink of spring-like. I quickly warm up, stripping off unnecessary winterwear as I go.
A couple of hours later I’m wandering the maze-like grounds of the imposing 800-year-old behemoth. Hiking up a multitude of stairs brings me to Orgueil’s pinnacle – the view takes in the quaint fishing village of Gorey below, with eye-popping green fields, the supple blue of sky and that bay, an elegant, concave stretch that delicately cups the ocean. Turn around and you can see all the way to France, its shadowy presence partly obscured by cloud.
The afternoon involves me swapping legs for two wheels as I speed westwards along the coastal bike path from the capital of St Helier to St Brelade’s Bay. There’s a rush to it as I fly along the smooth track, cheeks flushed pink by the wind. The beach is burnished with gold, the promenade alive with pedestrians and fellow cyclists making the most of the clement weather – it feels more like LA than the UK.
Adrenaline-doused excitement continues in the form of sea kayaking with Absolute Adventures. I’d worried about being cold, but dressed in full wetsuit, boots, windbreaker and beanie, I find I’m unseasonably toasty, especially when the sun fully emerges to set the sea a-glitter. Affable Irish instructor Sean leads me out across the waves – another benefit of coming off-season is getting a one-on-one tutorial when no one else is bonkers enough to sign up for a November paddle – and we cruise west, dipping and pulling, dipping and pulling, until we draw up alongside a secluded beach.