Thu | Oct 19, 2017

Cycling around beautiful Southern Trelawny

Published:Sunday | May 3, 2015 | 12:00 AMJoan Williams
The lush Martha Brae Valley through which the famous river runs.
The view of the Cockpit Country and beyond from the great house.
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Some time ago, the gallant cyclists of the Fun & Thrills Adventure Club drove to Duncans, Trelawny, with the intention of exploring, by bicycle, interesting places in lush, hilly, southern Trelawny and neighbouring sections of St James. For this excursion, we followed the route mapped out by ace rider, foundation member and businessman, Howard Lynch.

Early on the Saturday morning, we set out on a leisurely ride to the Good Hope great house which was built in 1774, using a very scenic route through the Martha Brae Valley.

The road was somewhat bumpy, but the overhanging bamboo and other trees saved us from the pelting sun and created an ambience second to none. Thankfully, too, the route had very little traffic.

At our destination, we toured the beautifully restored great house and watched as horses wandered peacefully in their paddocks, while peacocks showed their feathers in all their glory. In the distance was the scenic view of the Queen of Spain Valley and the distant hills of all colours, sizes and shapes that surround the lush Cockpit Country.

swimming

We had hopes of swimming in the wonderful Martha Brae River, which runs through the property, but this was stymied by a prominent sign banning this activity. We were advised that swimming was prohibited as it would disturb and contaminate the shrimp and fish breeding grounds below. So we had to return to northern Trelawny which has fabulous, clean, clear waters at their many white-sand beaches, but opted for Oyster Bay, which seems to be an environmental disaster. But that is another story.

Our plan for the following day was to conquer the rugged Cockpit Country by bicycle. This included cycling from Duncans to Flagstaff, which is a forgotten Maroon community tucked away in the hills of St James. Our information was that there were heritage trails in the area to take you to artefacts preserved to remind us of the courageous struggle of the Maroons to ward off British invaders.

Mr Leslie

It turned out that we, too, were warded off, not by Maroons, but by the terrible condition of the roads. But this was when I met my first, real-live hermit by the name of Mr Leslie.

He lived deep in the deserted area in a humble home along the terrible roadway. It was the only house we saw for miles. While he appeared to be in his late 60s or early 70s, he looked as strong as an ox. According to him, he had been living by himself deep in the bushes since 1987 without any human company, and, of course, without electricity, although we did hear a radio playing.

Mr Leslie seemed quite self-sufficient with many small animals roaming around the yard and the surrounding lands which were well cultivated. He was quite unperturbed when we appeared and once we started talking with him, he began to open up and even walked into his field to get some ripe bananas for us. When he told us that it was about another five miles of the same road conditions to the Maroon village, we made an about-turn.

So it was back to basics. Soon our route organiser, Howie, after consulting his map, decided that we should just concentrate on exploring the rest of rural Trelawny.

That took us through some nice, clean towns and villages such as Wakefield, Friendship, Sherwood Content (birthplace of Usain Bolt), Duanvale, Clark's Town and back to Duncans. This journey of 32 miles took us through some of the most beautiful, clean, unpolluted countryside you will find anywhere.

scenic ride to Friendship

After we left Wakefield, which was the main town in the area, we enjoyed a pleasant, easy and scenic ride to Friendship. All along the way, we were surrounded by lush groves, endless blooms of wild orchids and magnificent trees, some of which were clearly hundreds of years old.

The big challenge came on the road to Sherwood Content, which was unpaved and hilly for most of the way. I am not ashamed to say that I had to push my cycle uphill for quite a while.

Next, it was off to get a lovely water massage under Liberty Falls, and boy, did that rejuvenate us!

After a great day of riding, eating and camaraderie, we headed home via the Martha Brae Valley, where the river runs lazily beside the road. The atmosphere immediately converts to one of tranquillity and absolute peace. Along the way, we saw many young men from the area equipped with long bamboo poles and basket traps fishing for mullet and crayfish in the river.

Southern Trelawny is really a charming section of Jamaica and we could not help marvelling about how few fat people we saw as we rode throughout the area. For it is a hilly area and the residents maintain good health by walking a great deal.

Feedback to article

on Drivers River

I browsed across a recent article Enjoying the Jamaican Outdoors - Drivers River saves the day (http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/art-leisure/20150405/enjoying-jamaica) and would love to join you people as I have always wanted to visit Jamaica (I'm born and bred, but the Jamaica they advertise to the tourists always seems a little elusive). My experiences thus far, however, have been limited as not all the people I wish to socialise with are willing to "do the outdoors thing", and there is the whole safety factor of a woman travelling alone.

- E. Harris

Hi Ms Williams,

I read your article in The Gleaner today and wondered if you could give more detailed directions to the swimming spot you 'discovered'. Do you have any photos? I have very vague memories of going to river bathe at a Drivers River as a child with family friends, but when I asked my parents about it, they always figured I was talking about Reach Falls.

It would be exciting to revisit an old memory or maybe discover some new ones.

Thank you for your stories of your travels around our beautiful country. I would also like to see a photograph of the section of Drivers River you described.

- Jennifer Gibbs

n Joan Williams, moderator of Joan Williams Online broadcast on Power 106, describes herself as an unapologetic addict to the Jamaican outdoors. A foundation member of Fun and Thrills Adventure Club, she explores the island at any given opportunity cycling, hiking or swimming with that group, family, Jah 3 and anyone else who will have her. In 1995, she published the popular Tour Jamaica and the Fourth edition is now an ebook available at: http://www.amazon.com/Tour-Jamaica-Joan-Williams-ebook/dp/B00EJWCSHS/ref...

Contact: gratestj@gmail.com