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Bluetitting with Visit Guernsey

Remember that glorious weather we had at the end of March? When we all thought summer had arrived and started merrily putting our winter coats into storage, just in time for the snow to start? Well, Sian spent that wonderful week travelling around the islands of Guernsey and Alderney! We weren’t jealous at all…

It was all part of a collaboration with Visit Guernsey, who are keen to show off all that Guernsey has to offer to casual dippers looking to discover new and exciting spots to explore. Sian visited with her son and cameraman, Wil, who is creating some incredible edits of their time there that will be released very soon. 

In the meantime, here’s Sian, chatting with Sarah about her time there. They sat and talked while sipping on coffee as the rain hammered against the caravan windows on Sian’s campsite in Pembrokeshire. The conversation somehow transported both of them to the white sands and glistening seas of late March in Guernsey, we hope it does the same for you!

So, what did you get up to in Guernsey??

I spent 4 marvellous days travelling around Guernsey to find amazing swim spots – it’s a hard life! My idea of being in Guernsey was very much to be able to scope it out as a go-to place for people who wanted to enjoy a lovely holiday that was based around swimming. So the entire time I was there I was looking for things that would excite a Bluetit – and that’s me of course!

So that’s not just swim spots, it’s everything. It’s being able to park my car, have great access to a beach, the beach being beautiful, and then finishing the day off with some lovely food. I have to say that Guernsey has absolutely everything. It wasn’t difficult to find all of these things in one package.

Sounds amazing, and perhaps tricky to know where to start in a place you’ve never been to before. How did you kick it off?

A fantastic lady called Rachel met us off the plane. She runs a company called 1st Call Guernsey Tours and so she whisked me off in her little Mini Cooper and off we went to our first port of call, Portlet. There was a little kiosk there selling Guernsey crab sandwiches and this was very delightful when we arrived because the sun was shining. The hut is right on this little prominent bit of headland.

Oh god, my mouth’s watering already, I should have brought snacks! So this first day was to get your bearings and work out how to get around? Was that easy enough?

It’s very easy! There’s a brilliant bus service that runs around the island, and many swimmers I met said that’s how they do it. We hired a car, which is interesting because they do have a 35 mile an hour speed limit. But the best thing is the parking is completely free!

This is a massive bonus because I spent the week travelling around and looking for swim spots of course. Wil was driving the car and I was shouting,  STOOOOOP!! and leaping out getting into my swimsuit. He’s getting the cameras ready, a quick swim, back in the car, and onto the next one. Guernsey is marvellous for this because you don’t have to pay for parking. So it’s brilliant that you don’t have seven different bloody parking tickets in your windscreen and you’re looking around for money or you’re looking around for a credit card. So those were my first discoveries, that the crab was amazing and parking is free.

So, tell me about swimming! Did you meet up with any Bluetits?

I did! I swam at Port Soif with the Guernsey Bluetits and the Guernsey All Season Swimmers. They were so kind to me, they’d written ‘Bore Da’ on the sand in driftwood and seaweed! A really fantastic group of people.

A dream of mine for a while has been to capture a drone shot of synchronised swimming. I’d actually been talking to Wil about it the night before. And anyhow I get to the beach chit chatting to them and they were telling me all about the things they get up to. So they have their night swims, their candle swims, their morning swims, big picnic breakfasts, you name it, they do it, and they do it daily. Swimming is very much part of their life. A lot of them were there in their Guernsey robes. The sun was shining. They were already getting their picnics out.

And they mentioned that they had done a synchronised swim a couple of days ago! It turns out one of them used to be a competitive synchronised swimmer! So Wil gets the drone out and she’s shouting instructions to us in the water. It was just incredible. I can’t wait for you to see it on the edit!

Were there many people swimming in Guernsey?

I think everybody swims in Guernsey. There was swimmer after swimmer after swimmer they were like lemmings going into the sea all the way across the beaches. I was trying to swim with as many people as possible. So the car was stopped. I got out, swam, got back in the car. I gave up getting dressed in the end because it was pointless!

What was your swimming highlight of the trip?

It has to be Venus Pool at Lihou Island. You can only access the Island at low tide across a cobbled causeway. So this bit already thrilled me because we were there a little bit early. The tide was dropping, which then revealed this causeway! The Venus Pool is a little way down some rocks, and is large enough for a swim but small enough to feel just magical. 

Because the tide is so low there, a lot of people swim at half to high tide or high to half because the reefs are too big. So when I was in this sea pool I could see the reefs beyond and the waves crashing onto these reefs. So I’m in this really silent little pool, but in the distance, you know, I could hear the crashing of the waves. That really was something.

I’ve seen a picture of you on a kayak too?

Oh yes! We headed to Petit Bot, a beach on the South side of the island that has more cliffs rather than the sloping beaches of the North. There we met Josh from Outdoor Guernsey. He took us around Petit Bot Bay which is very Pembrokeshire-esque with lots of little islands to kayak around. Of course with the 10 metre tides, the lovely tall cliffs were fascinating because you’re looking up at all these different lichens on the cliff which were an awful lot higher than here.

You’ve mentioned the food A LOT since you got back. How was it?

Just divine. Basically, if you like swimming and food, you’ll love Guernsey. We ate at some lovely restaurants and they each took real pride in what they were doing, there was this one place….

(Sian talked for a very, very long time about food. We know you have lives to get on with, so here’s a little summary.)

Roc Salt – Sian was feeling very shivery after a sunset swim, and the very kind waiter noticed and brought her some blankets. They ate fresh seafood and absolutely loved it.

Guernsey Hamper Company – Delivered a picnic hamper to Sian’s chosen swim spot in a little electric van. Amazing!

Octopus – A restaurant at St Peter Port overlooking the marina. Sian and Wil chose their lobsters from a tank. In 3 words – Flamboyant, extravagant, unreal!

Where did you stay? Was it beautiful? I don’t know if I want to know!!

Sorry, but oh yes, beautiful. We stayed in The Farmhouse, and when I arrived there I just stood and stared at the room for about 5 minutes, it was so beautiful. Everything I’d want from a hotel room.

You went to Alderney as well didn’t you?

Yes! we took the little Dornier plane to Alderney which was a 20 minute flight. Really, really easy. I mean it was, I believe, £120.00 return so it might not be something you do on an afternoon, but after my experience in Alderney, I would definitely make that part of my holiday if I went there again because the flight was thrilling in itself!

We were met in Alderney by a very interesting man called Bill who took us in his taxi to the Braye Beach Hotel which is on a beach in Alderney. It was just, oh my god, it was stunning. We ate at a place called the Georgian House, which was delightfully laid back. It had locals in sailing shirts and people dressed up to the nines.

Did you swim in Alderney?

I had the pleasure of swimming at Fort Corblets with Claire and her friends who were called the Swim and Soup Swimmers! We sat in the sunshine afterwards, and we had our soup because that’s what they do, it was just amazing.

What in particular did you like about Alderney?

It’s an incredible community. They were so keen to promote their island and really welcoming. Like Guernsey, they seemed to have everything. There were shops, cafes, there were pubs, there were three churches. You can get married there on a beach. You know it’s very laid back. Very beautiful.

It sounds idyllic. So, to finish off, what’s the first thing we’re doing when you take us all to Guernsey??

On the final morning, at 6.30am, we went to La Vallette Bathing Pools. They have 3 pools there that are closed off to the sea, but they fill at high tide. And then one pool which could be described as like a little harbour at high tide. They’ve also provided steps into the sea so the whole swimming experience there was incredible. I wished I hadn’t been there on the last day as we had a plane to catch!

I watched people arriving, having what my mother would have called a Constitutional Swim, and then having a coffee and setting off for work or for breakfast at Octopus next door.

First on my list when I return is to spend an entire day at these bathing pools, eating at Octopus and having a picnic lunch, meeting people, and soaking up the atmosphere. It was truly wonderful, and I can’t wait to go back!

The Bluetits Chill Swimmers Ltd has partnered with Visit Guernsey to check out Guernsey as a holiday destination for Bluetits. Visit Guernsey paid Sian and Wil for their filming work, and paid their expenses on this trip. VG has also paid The Bluetits Chill Swimmers Ltd for our participation, including this blog and some exciting social media content. Sian has been completely honest about her experience in Guernsey (she doesn’t really know how to be anything else!) and it’s important to us that Bluetits understand that our social enterprise has received financial contributions for this content.