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Lemon Valley

Everything but the lemons

If life gives you lemons, make lemonade{a}

A popular recreation spot, with added historic interest‍‍

Lemon Valley is a nice valley with opportunities for swimming and other recreational activities. Saints often go there on weekends or in holidays to have barbecues. It is usually reached from Jamestown by boat, although it can also be reached by descending along a footpath from near Rosemary Plain.{b}

What’s here?

Not a lot! The shore is composed of rocky outcrops; there is no beach. The area was improved in 2010 by the creation of a new landing stage. Space can be found under the cliffs for a barbecue and you can sunbathe on the rocks or swim in the sea (no unsafe currents). You could also explore the remains of the fortifications and the old quarantine station.

But nobody goes to Lemon Valley for what’s already there. A trip to Lemon Valley is primarily a social occasion, usually taken with family and friends, either on a public holiday or a birthday or other anniversary. The activities (swimming; snorkelling; Fishing; etc.) are of secondary importance.

How to get here

Never in our history has there been a road to Lemon Valley. There is a navigable footpath from Rosemary Plain, but it is poor and tricky so is rarely used. By far the commonest route is by sea. Boats run from Jamestown and can be booked at the Tourist Information Office. Many Dolphin watching trips include a short stop at Lemon Valley.

If you must try the walking route the path starts from the roadside just below Rosemary Plain and initially follows the contour through woodland to the head of Sarah’s Valley. From here the path descends into the increasingly arid landscape before joining into Lemon Valley. Towards the valley mouth the remains of buildings from a quarantine station and settlement are encountered. There is a post box adjacent to one of these. This is a personal recollection of the walk:

Initially moving along a narrow path boarded by conifers, like much of St Helena the descent takes you through several climatic zones. Conifers give way to a multitude of deciduous trees and bright flowers, flashes of burnt orange from the Silky Oak Tree grevillea robusta standing out against the backdrop of blue waters several Km below.

As the path becomes drier it becomes trickier, with bare rocky slopes giving way to fine powdery scree and solid footsteps being replaced by a step and slide pattern. Trees are replaced by large stands of English Aloe, and the orange of the Silky Oak is replaced by the orange of the Nargy Weed. As Sarah’s Valley converges with Lemon valley, Tungi begins to dominate and as I stop to look across the now wide Y shaped eroded slopes behind me, a row of caves can be seen across the way. As the wind rushed down from Rosemary plain above I shouted to find my voice echoing back at me in such clarity had it not been my own I’d have thought someone else was shouting toward me from the caves afar.

After descending the last scree slope, more suited to skis than boots, the valley flattens and the path twists through a dark, entangled forest of wild mangoes. Feeling like Indiana Jones in his latest adventure, I, with almost every step, broke the web of a Spiny Orbweaver Spider gasteracantha cancriformis. Now of course to some this is a trip close to hell, but for me it was great, and these incredible and beautiful spiders just added to the intrigue as their webs stretched wide across the narrow path. As I pushed through the trees and webs the curious Fairy Terns visited, flying close to suss out the new visitor. A particularly curious individual flew within touching distance, hovering motionless to look me right in the eye before letting me move along my way.

Reaching the valley floor it opens up, and once again the history that wraps up every story on this Island is evident; abandoned homes and buildings, of a once-small but thriving community that built up around a still intact quarantine station farther down. A defensive wall borders the rocky beach and the blue lagoon is overlooked by the remnants of an old gun battery, no longer a surprise to see given that it seems there was once a gun of some sort pointing toward every inch of this fortified outpost of the empire.

Having completed another post box walk, and after spending ten or so minutes exploring the rocks and pools I headed back up the valley. Luckily for you, my description will be considerably shorter than the monotonous, endless trudge that the walk up Lemon valley is. A relentless climb across loose scree ensuring your feet cover twice the distance of your body due to the slips across the dust. Pushing myself as hard as I could the constant thirty degree incline was conquered in just over an hour, but it was the mountain that won, leaving me struggling for breath in the mid-day heat!

Arrive at Lemon Valley from the sea instead of on foot and its beauty is revealed in a new light. The bay at the mouth of the valley is not a classic tropical vision, draped in white sand or palms trees, like much of St Helena its beauty is not in the obvious, but in the detail. Its beauty lies in the grandeur of scale from the steep sided volcanic cliffs, to the endemic fish in the rock pools, from the crystal clear waters of the Atlantic Ocean to the shoals of butterfly fish. It is the childlike excitement that is generated from scrambling over rocks, the wonderful group of friends from all walks of life that our day was to be spent with and the laughter and excitement of the Children as they jump from the shore into the sea. Lemon valley, like St Helena, is everything and nothing a unique place in a unique way of life.{c}

There’s even a song about visiting Lemon Valley


Dutch attempted landing, 1672

The first mention of Lemon Valley is in relation to the Dutch invasion in 1672; it was then known as ‘Spragues’. The invaders gained a footing here, but were met with such a furious shower of rocks and boulders from the hillsides that it was impossible for them to proceed, and they were driven to take shelter in their ships, as depicted in the postage stamp (right). They tried again later, further along the coast.

It is not known when the valley’s name changed to Lemon Valley, but the reason is known. The upper slopes of the valley were suited to growing lemons, which were required in great quantity by passing ships (it had been discovered that eating lemons was a prophylactic against contracting Scurvy). Sadly the lemon trees no longer exist here, thought various plans have been put forward to reintroduce them.

Lemon Valley was formerly the best watering place for ships, but in 1732 there was a landslip of seven or eight acres of land (600x91 yards). This altered the taste and colour of the water, making it less pure than that of Jamestown or Chapple Valley.

In the Records for 1734 the structure is described thus:

‍Lemon Valley Lines‍: Some of the Dutch landed here formerly but by throwing large stones down the Hill they were beat off again. The guns much flamed and honey-combed. Wee have taken them away thence as useless and placed them on the West Rocks as shoar fasts for any ship that has occasion to warp in there. Wee have placed an anchor and several guns there for that purpose yet nobody has made any use of them.

Scouts at Lemon Valley, 2010

Scouts Camp at Lemon Valley:

Eight members of the First Jamestown Scouts went on a camping expedition to Lemon Valley last weekend. We started out from Rosemary Plain on Saturday afternoon, and it took around an hour and a half to hike down the valley, carrying packs with sleeping bags, food, water, swimming and fishing gear. On the way down, we had to cross an area where a recent land-slip has swept away the path, but it was not difficult to find a way across.

Once down at the valley, we collected wood to make a campfire to cook on, and the scouts started fishing for their supper. (They also brought plenty of cans of baked beans in case the fishing was not successful). We ended up with a fish and beans meal.

Not much sleep was to be had during the Saturday night. Only about an hour after going to bed, we had a visit from the phantom toothpaste squirter, who seemed to think that more than just teeth need the toothpaste treatment. After that, it was apparently time to relight the campfire, so that there was no wood left to cook breakfast on. Fortunately, before we all starved, the boat came to collect us from Lemon Valley and take us back to Jamestown. (Many thanks to Keith and Michelle Yon for providing the boat ride).{d}

Local Lemons

St Helena still grows lemons. Not as many as it used to (see below) but some.

But our locally-grown lemons are unusual. They are about 50% larger and not the shape usually seen in the rest of the world; they are round, and they have a thick knobbly skin, as illustrated below. We assume this is a result of genetic in-breeding - they were not, we understand, introduced by humans so may have arrived from Africa many millions of years ago and had plenty of time to evolve. Unless anyone has an alternative explanation for their size and shape.

Read More

Article: Lemon Valley buildings uncovered by tidy up

Published in St Helena Herald 19th November 2010{1}

Volunteers clearing scrub in Lemon Valley have revealed a cluster of buildings over a hundred and fifty years old.

Two days of clearance by National Trust staff and volunteers last weekend revealed two buildings less than one hundred metres from the sea. The buildings, which may have been part of the Lemon Valley quarantine depot, had been smothered by a thick forest of invasive wild mango.

As the photos show, both buildings are in remarkably good condition and could be restored with relatively little effort. If the walls were stabilised they could be re-roofed and made habitable. One of the priorities of the new Tourism Development Plan is to improve visitor facilities at Lemon Valley.

Visiting archaeologist Ben Jeffs who is working at Lemon Valley says that the buildings were originally built as small houses, probably by The East India Company. The stream runs just in front of the buildings and there is evidence of terraced gardens behind them. Historic accounts from the 1800s talk of Lemon Valley as a ‘lush pastureland’.

The volunteers also cleaned up round the main building, killing weeds and removing shrubs that were damaging the stone walls. National Trust project manager Jodie Mills is very pleased with the results of the hard work: It was my first visit to Lemon Valley and it is such a wonderful place. Unfortunately it hasn’t been well maintained in recent years so it was great to be able to give something back to improve the area. Those of us who use and enjoy Lemon Valley have a responsibility to look after it.

A second tidy up is expected to take place before Christmas. Anyone willing to help should contact the National Trust office in Jamestown.

Thanks to all those who helped with the clean up: Jodie Mills, Colin Owen, Andy Pearson, Jamie Roberts, Ben Jeffs.


The only lemons you’ll find in Lemon Valley…

{a} Ron White{b} ‘Spatial identities of the citizens of Saint Helena’, by Maarten Hogenstijn & Daniël van Middelkoop, 2001{1}{c} twoyearsintheatlantic.com, Retrieved 27th October 2015{1}{d} The Independent, 16th July 2010{1}


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