8th January 1931
Work begins on the Val des Terres
Without the Val des Terres, getting into and out of St Peter Port from the south or west would be tortuous. We should be grateful, then, that the planners who plotted its winding path down the hill from Fort Road had sufficient foresight to commission was might have looked like an indulgence.
Car ownership was increasing in 1931, as the price of vehicles fell. The Morris Minor debuted that year, costing just £100, and unless Guernsey did something to upgrade its road system, more cars at similar prices would see the existing routes clogged.
But construction of the Val des Terres was about more than just providing a better route into Town. It was also organised for the public good, with the workers employed to dig and lay it taken from the island’s long-term unemployed.
The exception was the bailiff who, although gainfully employed, was given the honour of digging the first sod. Sadly, regardless of the fanfare, reports suggest that the event may well have been spoiled by the weather. Guernsey had just over two hours of sunlight that day, and the boats from the mainland were delayed by fog.
The Val des Terres is opened
It wasn’t called Val des Terres at the time, but simply New Road, and didn’t get the name by which it is now known until its official opening by the Price of Wales in 1935 (24 July).
Despite having just one lane in either direction, the Val des Terres remains one of the most important routes into St Peter Port. That still doesn’t stop it being closed from time to time to accommodate the British Hill Climb Championship.
This first happened in 1946 when driver G Bainbridge covered the 780m (850yds / 0.5 miles) in 50.6 seconds. This was chipped away at over the years and, by 2008, driver Martin Groves had cut the course record to just 28.25 seconds.