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The Heart Shaped Waterfall

For lovers everywhere

Thousands have lived without love, not one without water.{h}

If you travel out of Jamestown towards the Napoleonic Sites you can’t miss the Heart Shaped Waterfall‍‍

The waterfall itself

Watercourses of St Helena

Heart Shaped Waterfall postage stamp

The 90m waterfall runs mostly in the winter and early spring, fed by the winter rains. In summer it is frequently dry. The water is sourced from the hinterland above James Valley and thereby arrives at the top of the waterfall, as shown on the map (right). The image (below) more clearly shows the land above the waterfall. It has twice been voted one of the Seven Wonders of St Helena.

The land containing the waterfall was purchased (personally) in 2001 from Cable & Wireless by Michel Dancoisne-Martineau, who transferred it to the St Helena National Trust in 2007.

In 2008-2010 the St Helena National Trust refurbished the woodland walk that leads from Barnes Road, at the southern end of James Valley, up to the base of the waterfall, improving the footpaths and building a viewing platform beside the waterfall’s plunge pool. The trail opened in 2011. This is a pleasant afternoon stroll from Jamestown, particularly enjoyable on a warm afternoon when the shade of the trees is welcome. Paddling in the plunge pool is not actually prohibited, though the rocks can be rather slippery.

The water from the waterfall heads north to the sea at Jamestown, via The Run.

Unsurprisingly, the Heart Shaped Waterfall has captured the attention of many photographers{1}:

A mountain mass, with a waterfall that drops down two hundred feet. It is a scene of singular grandeur and wildness, bold in every feature, and striking from its inexpressible ruggedness.{i}

As far as we can tell ours is the world’s only Heart Shaped Waterfall. There is a waterfall in the Gold Coast with a heart-shaped plunge pool, but that’s it.


Although the reason for the name Heart Shaped Waterfall is obvious from the photographs, this name is apparently modern. In 1824 it is depicted in a book Published by Henry Colburn & Co., London under the title The Cascade (it seems it was a tourist attraction even then). In 1883 Benjamin Grant in ‘A Few Notes on St Helena’ calls it The Big Waterfall. ‘St Helena, The Historic Island, From Its Discovery To The Present Date’, by E. L. Jackson, published in 1905, however, captions the photograph opposite Page 200 as Heart-Shaped Waterfall, so who assigned it its current name and precisely when remains a mystery but we believe it occurred sometime in the late 19th Century.

Barnes Road

Barnes Road was built to link upper Jamestown to Francis Plain; a shorter route than via either Side Path or Ladder Hill Road. The chosen route was from the lower waterfall near the present Black Bridge, up around Peak Hill above the Cat Hole to Francis Plain where it linked with a road that then existed around the northern side of the parade ground.

Work started in 1847 with labour provided by ‘Liberated Africans’ and prisoners, all under the direction of a Major G.A. Barnes. The building would have been difficult because of the tremendously steep hill and the vast amount of hard basalt rock that had to be cut or blasted from the hillside to create the route. The road was completed before the end of 1849. In the St Helena Gazette of 1851 there is a notice that Major Barnes was awarded a cup for his services in completing this road, which was also formally named after him.

There is some debate as to whether the road was constructed with the primary purpose of providing an additional route, or to create employment in a time of limited opportunity.

Barnes Road was never much used by anything other than pedestrians, largely because it was very steep in places. Even the early motor cars that arrived on the island in 1929 were unable to make the climb. Gradually the road fell into disuse. Ken Denholm researched the road in April 2000 and wrote:

After 25 trips up and down I only met three people on it, also a couple of dogs and several goats.

Parts of the lower road are now incorporated into the Heart Shaped Waterfall Trail. In 2010 parts of the upper reaches were incorporated into the route for the 2010 Festival of Running, after previously being cleared by the Scouts.

Parts of the road can also be seen in several of the modern photographs above.

Read More

Below: Article: Opening of Heart Shaped Waterfall TrailArticle: Governor’s LetterSeven Wonders Voting

Article: Opening of Heart Shaped Waterfall Trail

Published in the St Helena Herald 7th January 2011{1}

A special event to mark the official opening of the St Helena National Trust’s new footpath to the Heart Shaped Waterfall was attended by over 120 people on Wednesday 22nd December.

There was a short opening ceremony before Miss St Helena, Stacey Thomas declared the Heart Shaped Waterfall Trail officially open. She paid tribute to all the hard work put into building the new footpath and said that everyone involved should be proud of themselves.

Most of the crowd then walked up to the waterfall, enjoying the new 1km long footpath. On the way they were shown the new endemics area, where St Helena species such as Bastard Gumwood and Ebony have been planted, and the old agricultural terrace walls that have been rebuilt. At the top of the walk people relaxed on the new viewing platform and took photos of the Waterfall.

Many Saints who had grown up near to the Waterfall attended. On the walk they talked about their experiences of the Valley, including hunting pigeons on the cliffs, picking red dates and collecting horse beads. Some of their stories will be included in the new interpretation panels which will be installed early in 2011.

During the opening ceremony St Helena National Trust Director Jamie Roberts gave special thanks to all those who had worked on the Waterfall project:

Building the new trail was a real challenge. Because of the steep Valley sides there was no way we could use machinery or even donkeys. All the materials - even the bridge beams which weighed over half a ton each - had to be carried up the Valley by humans. The quality of the walkways, bridges and staircases is down to the hard work of many people. I’d like to pay particular tribute to Brian Davies, who showed amazing stamina and never gave up, and Tom Wortley who managed to keep up with him. The project couldn’t have happened without Andrew Darlow, who battled through the wild mango and found a route for the path. They were supported by St Helena National Trust staff Hensil and Keith and many volunteers. The project succeeded because it was a real team effort.

The Trust Director highlighted that the new trail wouldn’t have been possible without the generosity of the French Consul, Michel Dancoisne-Martineau, who donated the Heart Shaped Waterfall land to the St Helena National Trust in 2007.

Thanks were also expressed to the Overseas Territories Environment Programme (OTEP) which funded the project.

Article: Governor’s Letter

Published in the St Helena Herald 14th January 2011{1}

During the Christmas break I was able to visit the waterfall and both Jean and I were tremendously impressed by the imagination and hard work that has gone into making this such a worthwhile experience.

I realise that many people must have been involved but I have been told that Brian Davies, Tom Wortley and Andrew Darlow led the assault on the problem. You are to be heartily congratulated and thanked for such a wonderful piece of work. I was so impressed that I made a resolution to visit the viewing platform when water is actually falling.

The pathway is a positive reflection on what is possible for tourism in St Helena and I am most grateful for your skill and application.

Best regards

Governor Andrew Gurr

Seven Wonders Voting



The appeal (right), made by former St Helena National Trust Director, Vince Thompson, was broadcast on Radio St Helena prior to the 2008 Seven Wonders voting:


{a} Mike Thorsen Imagery banzaichicken.blogspot.com{2}{b} Wirebird Blog{2}{5}{c} Marc Lavaud/Tourist Information Office{d} Tourist Information Office{e} David Pryce (‘Bug Man’){f} Sainte Hélène Voyage{g} Reverend Lambert{h} W. H. Auden{i} ‘A Guide to St. Helena, Descriptive and Historical’ by Joseph Lockwood, MDCCCLI (1851){4}{j} Manfred Rippich/Radio St Helena


{1} @@RepDis@@{2} See more blogs.{3} The four ‘Wirebird’ publications should not be confused.{4} Kindly provided to us by David Pryce at the Museum of St Helena.{5} Published by the Tourist Information Office{3}.