Fort Amherst - St John's - Hiking Newfoundland

 

Fort Amherst below Signal Hill at the Narrows in St, John's, Newfoundland.

 

Fort Amherst, Frederick's Battery, St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada

 

From Cabot Tower at the top of Signal Hill, Fort Amherst beckons from far below near sea level on the opposite side of the Narrows.

 

Fort Amherst - St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada Fort Amherst - on a prominent point called South Head below Signal Hill, on the opposite side of the Narrows into St. John's Harbour, St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada.

 

Curiosity has been aroused to the point where pursuit of investigating the remains of Fort Amherst can no longer be delayed.  A brief stop in St. John's for cold beverages provides Mélanie the opportunity to pursue hidden treasure at a yard sale. 

The drive around St. John's Harbour takes Water Street past Victoria Park, a left turn over the bridge and Southside Road east past a mix of residential and commercial property, then beneath the stone quarry cliffs and a plethora of seafaring vessels to a small parking area.

 

Fort Amherst - St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada

 

The walk on the road continues through an old, but established, residential area hanging from the hill above.  On the harbor side, the first discovery is the sparse remnant of Frederick's Battery tucked into a picturesque cove and documented with a historical placard.

 

Fort Amherst - St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada

 Fort Amherst - St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada
 
 
Further along, the road passes hiking trail access to the East Coast Trail on the way to Fort Amherst.
 
Fort Amherst - St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada
 
 
Fort Amherst is a National Historic Site, recognized on May 30, 1951.  There is little remaining of the original structures on South Head which date back to 1777.
 
 
Fort Amherst - St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada
 
 
Near the current lighthouse, a Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada plaque provides a brief description of the existence for the original Fort Amherst. Fort Amherst - St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada
 
 
Stairs descend beside the current lighthouse, built in 1951, to investigate the decaying concrete structures which served as defense during both World Wars.  The area is fenced to protect people from injury but we are able to find a way to tour the old ruins safely.  A stiff, fresh, salt air breeze is blowing towards us from the Atlantic Ocean and multiple blues and greens create dynamically changing turquoise highlights in the white surf pounding rhythmically against rock below.
 
 
Fort Amherst - St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada
 
 
The concrete structures have sadly decayed into ruin.  Vandals have exacerbated the disarray but looking past that, there is a sense of the power this fortification once commanded over the entrance to St. John's Harbour.  The barrels of large cannons lie silent in piles of debris. 
 
Following photographs will provide a summary of the views of and from the decaying concrete military structures built for the first and primarily second World Wars.  It is important to remember Newfoundland was British for the duration of the Second World War and did not become part of Canada until 1949.
 
 
 Fort Amherst - St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada Fort Amherst - St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada Fort Amherst - St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada Fort Amherst - St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada Fort Amherst - St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada Fort Amherst - St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada Fort Amherst - St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada Fort Amherst - St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada Fort Amherst - St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada
 
 
On the ocean side of South Head, the rotting remains of concrete gun turrets are visible over fenced and steep cliffs far below the lighthouse.
 
 
Fort Amherst - St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada Fort Amherst - St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada
 
 
On the other side of the Narrows, Signal Hill soars from the edge of the narrow channel into St. John's HarbourCabot Tower looks tiny from this vantage point far below near sea level.
 
 
Fort Amherst - St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada

Fort Amherst - St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada Cabot Tower stands above Ross's Valley on Signal Hill, St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada.

 

Mélanie and I climb the stairs to the 1951 lighthouse and, on the way, pass a winch, installed in 1950 and powered by a 5 HP Acadia engine.  Combined with cable and pulleys, the winch hauled construction supplies for the present lighthouse which began operation a year later.  Subsequently the winch was used to lift supplies from shoreline for the lighthouse and the Keeper's home.  This motorized system replaced an old tramway and trolley which hauled supplies up from shoreline using a manually operated winch.

 

Fort Amherst - St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada

Fort Amherst - St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada An abandoned boat behind the Keeper's House at Fort Amherst, St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada.

 

Fort Amherst - St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada Looking out at the Atlantic Ocean from the rear of the Keeper's House at Fort Amherst, St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada

 

On the walk back along the road to the car, Mélanie and I decide to tackle hiking a short distance on the East Coast Trail

There are virtually endless recreational opportunities.  Life is too short.

 

 

 

 

Categories: 

Tags: 

Comments

Thank you for your comment, Paul. I hope the installation can be restored at some time in the future. It seems like such an important historical landmark.

I lived there for two years, from 1972-74. My father, Ed Brake, was the head lightkeeper there. I still love that place and plan to go back and take my kids there to show them. It is such a shame the bunkers were not maintained.

Thanks for responding to me, I love our history and to see it crumble away is a shame. The old saying goes, 'ya never know what ya had till it's gone'. Cheers Peter

I felt the same way when I was visiting, Peter. I hope to hear of an initiative to restore and interpret the site. There is rich and enduring history at Fort Amherst. It would be unfortunate to lose the important link and the stories that belong to it. Thanks for your comment.

Wish this place could be rebuilt, it's a shame to see it fall away as it has. If ever there is an attempt to rebuild it I would love to give my time to help.

My first experience on Newfoundland was short and intense. The 'Rock' is a unique place and the people are beyond friendly. It is a place of strong contrasts with amazing scenery, unique culture and fascinating history. I definitely want to hike the East Coast Trail. Thank's for your comment, Mel. I shall look forward to seeing you soon. I hope you have an opportunity to travel to Newfoundland. It is a special place.

Well, my friend, it looks like you had another great trip....Love the pictures and this makes me wonder "WHY" I have not ventured there... One day maybe I will as I love how different it is from out here in the west...Looking forward to having coffee or lunch in Nov. as I will be down there for a week....

Thank you for your comment, D. The Newfoundland experience was on my bucket list for decades. The depth of history there is overwhelming and remarkably well preserved. For the short time there, I was like a kid in a candy shop. We grabbed as much as we could in the brief time we had. I would recommend the experience to everyone who enjoys learning new culture and very old history. I found it interesting that Newfoundland holds much of Canada's early history and yet was the last to join Canadian Confederation. It is an incredible, amazing and culturally unique place. I loved it there and hope I will have another opportuity to return for a longer time. Really want to hike in Gros Morne.

Great series of posts Barry! Always a wonderful thing to learn about the culture and the history of the places we then hike around. D

Add new comment