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TOURS - The Maroons |  Reach Falls  |  Annotto Bay

Tour 18 - East to Reach Falls
Excerpted from the book, Tour Jamaica, by Margaret Morris

At the FAIRY HILL crossroads you turn R for Nonsuch Caves and Athenry Gardens. Left of the main a road leads down to WINNIFRED BEACH and further on another leads to the WINNIFRED REST HOUSE. An almost illegible sign tells you that Winnifred House was donated by the late F.B. Brown as a Rest Home for Missionaries, Teachers, and the Respectable Poor. F.B. Brown was a Quaker Minister and his daughter, who died in childhood was named Winnifred. Brown left a property of several hundred acres including the beach, which was to be administered by a Trust. The trust is now almost defunct and the property - what is left of it is administered by the Administrator General. The rest of the land was sold to the Ministry of Agriculture which leased it, long term, to small farmers and then later transferred ownership to the Urban Development Corporation. Currently, an interesting situation exists in which the UDC is trying to relocate the farmers, and tourism developers have their eyes on the lovely beach. So far, the farmers are refusing to budge. They are encouraged by persons who feel that Winnifred Beach should be preserved for the nation rather than sold to private developers. The Winnifred House on a hill away from the beach has five bedrooms and is rather shabby and spartan. It can still be rented by Missionaries, Teachers and the Respectable Poor.

WINNIFRED BEACH, like many in Portland, has streams running into the sea and good swimming. A mile beyond here, smoke rising from a cluster of jerk huts heralds BOSTON BAY a beautiful beach donated to the government during the 1950s by Robin Moore (author of The Green Berets, The Happy Hooker, etc.). As we went to press, the beach has unkempt showers, changing rooms and a snack bar but no lifeguards as the Parish Council is hoping to lease it to private operators. An exceptionally scenic bay with good surf may tempt you to swim at your own risk.

Boston is the home of jerked pork, a spicy snack which originated with the Maroons who hunted wild boar in the Portland mountains and smoked it over open fires. You will see and smell it being smoked over pimento wood in the jerk stalls. There are still wild boar in the hills of Portland and they are hunted around Durham.

Errol Flynn's Estates start at Boston and include 3,000 acres of coconuts and cattle pasture with a large herd of Jamaica Reds. The properties are managed by his widow Patrice Wymore Flynn one-time winner of the title Champion Farmer of Jamaica. Mrs Flynn, who also runs a boutique at the Jamaica Palace hotel, enjoys a warm rapport with the local people.

Turn L after Castle Mountain Police Station on to the old road for the scenic bay where PRIESTMAN'S RIVER enters the sea, a picture taking stop and delightful for a swim or picnic.

The FAIR PROSPECT Secondary School, a short distance R of the main road is built on the site of an old sugar works and an old windmill survives in the grounds. The main crop around here is coconuts.

Along the coast LONG BAY provides a spectacular view, especially with a norther blowing. The beach is beautiful but dangerous for swimming because of an unpredictable undertow. More and more of the seascape is being hidden as cottages are built along the beach. Some of these can be rented. Midway along the beach, painted in Rasta colours and built of bamboo is the Long Bay Beach and Fisherman's Park, with a sign warning "Children at Play, drive carefully." Drinks for the thirsty and hammocks for the weary available here.

Past the Long Bay Service Station turn along a rough road to view the lifework of one of Jamaica's grand eccentrics: KEN ABENDANA SPENCER'S CASTLE. Ken paints to support his building habit. For years he has been constructing a cross between a fortress and a multi-storied Grecian temple. He is up to six stories now and still planning a penthouse and elevated tennis court. Ken is certain that one day his 'architectural sculpture' will actually be completed and serve as a cultural centre or luxury hotel. Till then, he is thankful to be able to provide steady work for some local masons and youths. A fascinating host, he welcomes visitors who are interested in Jamaica, building, art, and prepared to spend money on pictures.

Just beyond Long Bay you can detour R up steep RURAL HILL to St. Mary's, a quaint old Anglican church with a superb view of the coast. Further on, the seacoast here has some dramatic rock formations, and there is a lonely stretch of road bordered with thick rain forest where a deep hairpin bend is known as DEVILS ELBOW or See-me-no-more. A local legend tells of a horse and buggy Baptist Minister who miraculously escaped from a cutthroat here.

At KENSINGTON, once a Methodist enclave, a stream enters the sea by a lovely beach. The locals call it Christmas River Beach and it is a favourite place for doing the washing or taking a bath.

The DARLINGFORD ESTATE took its name from the original owner, the Duke of Darlingford. Now it is owned by a prominent Portland family which produced a former JLP Minister of Works, Ken Jones, and his brother, author Evan Jones whose poem "Banana Man" captures the essence of the Portland small farmer. ("Thank God and this strong right hand, I will live and die a Banana Man"). Evans Jones' novel Stonehaven is a thinly disguised portrait of his colourful family, and of Jamaican life and politics; it includes a fictional account of his brother Ken's supposedly accidental death at a political retreat. Their mother, a Quaker missionary came to Portland from America, defying race and religious prejudice she married Fred M. Jones a hardworking farmer who later became the richest man in the parish.

MANCHIONEAL took the name of a poisonous seaside plant which presumably used to grow here. It is a large fishing village, formerly one of the first ports to ship bananas. The road skirts a long beach. Just beyond the Police Station and a tiny cut stone Anglican church turn R through Muirton property to REACH FALLS on the DRIVERS RIVER - a leading candidate for the title "Most Beautiful Place in Jamaica." Travel 2.5 miles along a narrow road bordered by coconut and bananas with distant vistas of the Blue Mountains. REACH, secluded and undeveloped and long may it remain so - has for the past 20 years been unofficially managed by Frank Clarke who farms the land beside the river. He built the unobtrusive steps that lead down to the river, employs local boys as guides and lifeguards. and recently put in changing rooms a short distance away. His helpmeet Angie has a small shop by the car park and Rastafarian Renford Kenton sells some craft. Apart from this, Reach is almost untouched. The main falls cascade into a pool deep enough for diving, there are "pools upon pools" for half a mile above them and the "Mandingo Cave" which is reported to be a quarter of a mile long with a whirlpool in the middle. If you are especially energetic you can even follow the river all the way down to the sea.

Afterwards, it is worth proceeding into St. Thomas. At GRANGE HILL a short road leads down to the beach at INNIS BAY - very neglected and rather grubby like all public beaches in Jamaica but quite scenic nevertheless. Just beyond the beach road Lee's small wooden cross roads shop is a minibus stop and meeting place for he district. It has cold drinks (and hard liquor) and is always open. Just knock if the door is closed.

The school at HAPPY GROVE was founded in 1889 by Quaker missionaries for the children of plantation workers. It is now run by the government.

HECTORS RIVER marks the boundary of Portland. From QUAW HILL there is a magnificent view over the St. Thomas plains and sugar cane fields to MORANT POINT lighthouse and the easternmost tip of the island.

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