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Torteval


Torteval is Guernsey’s smallest parish with a population of less than a thousand. It is also the furthest away from town and viewed by some locals as remote, even though it is only twenty minutes drive from St Peter Port. It sits on the rugged cliffs of Guernsey’s south-western coast and it still has large areas of countryside. The parish has two parts, it is split by the parish of St Peter’s. Torteval means ‘twisting valley’ in Guernesiais.



Rocquaine bay is a large sandy bay, part of it is in the parish of St Peters. Rocquaine bay is home to the Rocquaine regatta every August. Crowds of people turn up to take part in events on the sand and in the sea including a sandcastle competition, bicycle racing,a raft race, welly throwing, swimming races, bathing beauty and mini-macho competition.



Portlet in the northwest has a small harbour which is home to several small fishing boats. Tractors pull boats up and down the slipway and local fishermen make the most of good stocks of Pollack, bass and mackerel. The reefs offshore are also home to spider crabs and chancre crabs as well as lobster and crayfish. Rocquaine shell fish farm is positioned between Portelet and Fort Grey. The site is used for growing mussels and oysters. The shellfish are placed in bags on beds and they take between 3 and 4 years to grow.



The Hanois lighthouse can be seen standing on the rocks about a mile off Pleinmont point. It was completed in 1862 after many ships were wrecked on Guernsey’s dangerous west coast. Work on the lighthouse often had to be stopped because of rough seas; on one occasion five men were swept off the rock and almost drowned. The lighthouse was one of the last in the British Isles to have an automatic light which meant that there didn’t have to be a lighthouse keeper on site. Two 3-man crews used to have to each work 28 day shift on the lighthouse.



Further round from Portlet beach the road is closed to traffic. The ruin of Fort Pezeries is a Napoleonic fort containing a powder magazine and stone platforms for three 18-pound Napoleonic guns. The fort has stood on this site since at least 1680 to protect Rocquaine Bay. By 1842 Fort Pezeries had fallen into disrepair.



There are many superstitions surrounding La Table des Pions which is known by locals as the Fairy Ring. Some people believe that if you walk around the fairy ring three times and make a wish that it will come true.
From Norman times until the 19th century this stone circle was used by officials as a resting place whilst inspecting roads and sea defences.



In the centre of the parish is Torteval parish church. It was built in 1818 on the site of the Church of St Philippe that had fallen into disrepair. It has an unusual round tower and the tallest spire in the island which was intended to be used by ships as a marker. It also has one of the oldest bells in the Channel Islands.


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  104k v. 1 16 Feb 2011, 13:54 katie Beavan