Walking the Beaches – Planning the walks

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Typical S Coast scenery

The push was to continue the expansion of Mauritius’ prime export product, high quality resort hotels.  The traditional resorts had already filled up the prime spots – the coast between Port Louis and Grand Baie in the north, the area around Le Morne, then the Bel Mare and Palmar coasts, a few in the far south east and finally the stretch in the west around the bizarrely named Flic-en-Flac.  Once these areas were filled up the new developments skirted round the fringes on marginally picturesque coastline (even inland areas in some cases) and most recently turned to the rocky, harsh currents of the south coast.

Surprisingly some exquisite coastline remained undeveloped – one stretch between the most southerly point on the island, Gris Gris, and the lagoons west of the airport was the largest.  The five areas that were identified as pressure points were as follows:

Grand Baie – an obvious one since this was about as heavily developed as the coastline got and closer to a holiday town than the other resort orientated locations.

Belle Mare and Palmar – on the east coast dominated by some huge resorts.

Ile D’Ambre – a potential hot spot in the north east which was mostly mangrove lined lagoons

Le Morne – another cherry in the tourism dessert , including a world heritage site

The South Coast – enigmatic choice since it has no development at all so not easy to see how it was pressured.

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More developed North coast scenery

What surprised us was that several other hot spot areas were ignored – the well developed coastline between Port Louis and Grand Baie, Flic en Flac , Mahebourg near the airport, the coastline south west of Port Louis.  But as you may have realised we were not necessarily party to the final decision and any attempt at scientific reasoning was never going to work, so in the time honoured way a consultant bites his tongue and gets on with it we started to analyze these five areas.

We had a whole series of things to do; we had to see what the current resources on land and sea were, we needed to see what activities were there and what the “stakeholders’” visions of what they wanted would be, discuss options, management methods and a roadplan.  I was quite happy my role was limited to the documentation of what was there, and for that I worked with our survey expert, Jeremy Hills, to design a methodology.

As far as you go – the Zones of St Helena

I was lucky enough to learn quite a lot about the forestry of St Helena from working with Myra who ran the Forestry division.  On the wall of her large office at the end of ANRD’s building, she had pieced together Photostat maps of the whole island.  On this mosaic, the plantations were all marked and named, in a similar manner to the parcels up o  Diana’s peaks were labelled for the conservation effort.  There was a legal area of woodland, called the National Forest, some of which was now open ground, but this map showed the areas which had once been commercial forest.  With a complicated coding system, the map also showed you what species existed in these forests.  It was predominantly a type of pine tree and eucalyptus – that stalwart of colonial timber.  But there were other coniferous and deciduous trees which meant a walk through these areas was always interesting and ever changing.

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Myra’s Maps

Four areas had more concentrations of woodlands than others, and they were places I found very special.  The house I stayed at on my first visit was nestled in amongst Alarm Forest.  To the South east of Diana’s Peaks was Levelwood.  There was a village called Levelwood but it had no real centre – a place called Woody Ridge was about as close as you would get to a village green and the rest of the houses were scattered around the adjoining ridges.  The main road below Diana’s Peaks zigzagged in and out of the forest.  To the south west there were plenty of plantations hidden away in valleys below Blue Hill, and then around Scotland and Broad Bottom were some of the most picturesque wooded valleys.

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Forest in the Green Heartland

As you dropped down beyond this Green Heartland, the soils became drier and the terrain less exposed.   This drier area is given the term “Intermediate Zone” for planning purposes.   More people lived here than close to the peaks and future development is focused here.  The south east side of the island was more exposed, indeed the rest of the islanders could be quite rude about living in the most easterly village, Longwood, as it always seemed to be raining and have a vicious gales blowing in from the sea.  Levelwood too was wet.  More people settled in the St Paul’s district on the north west side, of which Scotland was at the top end.