Thursday, March 28, 2013

St Helena – by Gary

We came across an interpretation panel at the top of ‘Jabobs Ladder’ (see Nina’s blog) with a great description of Jamestown as follows:

Jamestown, the capital of St Helena, was founded in 1659, when the English East India Company built a fort and established a garrison at the site on James Bay, naming it after James II.  This Georgian seaport consists of little more than a singles street stretching for a mile inland nestling in a deep-sided volcanic valley, and rising to a height of 500 feet (150m).  It retains a remarkable heritage: the town’s streets echo richly with impressions recalling the past – Napoleon walked this way, as did the Duke of Wellington, Captain Bligh, Edmund Halley, Charles Darwin and Captain Cook.
Visitors to the Island land at the wharf, pass the 17th century ‘glacis’ (defense ramparts) and through the town gate to the Grand Parade in Main Street.  Along this entire route almost every building is listed because of its historic importance.  Main Street is described as one of the best examples of unspoilt Georgian architecture anywhere in the world.

The rather imposing town gate, the main portal from the
waterfront  through the ramparts to the town centre

The ‘castle’, the administrative hub of the the town’s defense.

One of the few ‘side streets’, mostly deserted on a Sunday morning.

‘... almost every building is listed...’

‘Napoleon walked this way...’

The Hinterland
Moving out of town it quickly becomes apparent that the landscapes on this tiny island are remarkably varied – it’s not all volcanised moonscape, far from it.

The view back through town as you begin to rise up out of the valley.

Rising up higher still, the landscapes quickly green up – and it gets cooler too.

Quaint buildings dot the landscape

Many island slopes are covered with NZ flax (Phormium tenax), the growing of
 which, in a previous era, was the island’s major industry.

Today much of the island is grazed for cattle.  However early last century, during the Boer War, this valley was the site of a vast Boer ‘concentration camp’ (a charming English invention).  Conditions of diet, health and hygiene were such that  many succumbed to typhoid – a wholly preventable disease by then.

Volcanic plugs, Lot and Lot's Wife.

The Governor’s mansion.  Is that he and the wife out for a constitutional?

Island defense has been an enduring British preoccupation.  For instance during Napoleon’s incarceration (see Nina’s blog) over 6,000 troops were stationed strategically around the island, guarding against a possible repeat of his daring escape from a previous incarceration on the island of Elba in the Mediterranean.

This hill-top garrison was designed as the last point of retreat
in the even of an all-out French assault.

Many of the old fortifications have this wonderful ‘lived in’ quality.

The cliffs around the island are littered with gun emplacements,  tunnels,
powder magazines and abandoned barracks.

Canons, now quietly rusting.

An old barrack building featuring a particularly long ‘long drop’ and a million dollar view.  Must have been mind numbing standing sentry duty year on end, watching, waiting...

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