Farewell from James: 'Why I will always love the Channel Islands'

James Webster in the ITV Channel TV studio Credit: ITV News Channel TV

I’ve had a date written in my calendar for the last six months. Whenever I have seen the reminder getting closer I’ve had to stop myself thinking about it too hard. Now I have no choice.

As I write this note it is one minute past midnight on Friday 7 May 2021 and the alert has just flashed up on my phone. The day has one short description, “LAST DAY ON SCREEN.”

Later today I will be presenting my final programme for ITV News here in the Channel Islands. Just typing those words gives me a lump in my throat because quite simply it brings to an end the best two and a half years of my career. I have loved every single bit of it and in so many ways I don’t want it to end.

A late afternoon photo on my first day in Jersey back in 2018 Credit: ITV Channel TV

It was back in October 2018 that I boarded the Condor Ferry from the UK with a car full of possessions heading to a place I barely knew. I had only previously visited for a matter of hours for my job interview. Now I was moving my life to a small rock in the middle of the English Channel leaving behind friends, family and my partner for the challenge of an exciting new job.

Since then it is no exaggeration to say that I have fallen in love with this beautiful part of the world. It has been an absolute privilege exploring the Channel Islands, soaking up the stunning scenery and learning the history of a place I now feel ashamed that I knew so little about before I arrived.

There have been two very distinct halves to my time here. Pre-Covid and post-Covid.

Pre-Covid feels so long ago. Time stretched out ahead of us with little urgency for making the most of what was around us. Travel was easy. Our lives were unrestricted, though we didn’t know it at the time.

Although I have been living in Jersey during my time here, I now know that I was lucky in those early months that I was able to explore some of the other islands. Both for work and for pleasure I had several trips to Guernsey.

My first view of St Peter Port on the ferry from the UK made me realise I would by happy in the Channel Islands Credit: ITV Channel TV

My first glimpse of St Peter Port from the Condor Ferry reminded me of the the small seaside town of Whitby in Yorkshire where I spent my childhood. The white metal railings along the sea front and the style of the buildings had exactly the same charm and I remember thinking that I could be happy living over here.

I was so pleased to find time to explore the highlights of Guernsey including the Little Chapel. Credit: ITV Channel TV

I was enchanted by the beauty of the Little Chapel. I enjoyed the fun of lawn-mower racing at the West Show (even if the driver I was up against did let me win!). I experienced the wild windy conditions of a remote seafront at high tide. And I’ll always remember how decadent I felt when I discovered a decanter of complimentary port in my hotel room. It’s such a shame the Victor Hugo house was closed when I visited, but it gives me a reason to return in the future.

It was a beautifully hot summer day when I visited Sark Credit: ITV Channel TV

Sark too was an absolute joy. It was a hot summer’s day when I was there. Crossing La Coupée onto Little Sark felt like such an adventure. I could have sat in the oversized wooden chair I found there for hours enjoying the sun and the tranquility. And there was a market in the main square where I enjoyed chatting to some of the locals who were there selling their home-made crafts.

A jar of lemon card from Sark which has become a favourite souvenir

I bought a really tasty jar of lemon curd from a lady who had taken the care to write the labels so beautifully in fountain pen. I’ve still got the jar in my fridge – the lemon curd long since eaten save for the remnants stuck to the inside of the jar. One of my tasks for this weekend is finding a way to clean the inside of the jar and not smudge the handwriting. It’s one of my favourite souvenirs. If whoever I bought it from is reading this note – your lemon curd was absolutely delicious!

It remains a regret that I never made it to Alderney. I always find myself watching the reports from Alderney on our programme with even greater interest as I try to see more of what I have missed by not being able to visit. It was part of my plan – but Covid happened and, well, we all know what effect that’s had on so many plans for all of us.

And that brings me to the second half of my time here. I don’t even think we can call it post-Covid because we are all still living through it.

Coronavirus will always remind me of my time here and the great responsibility I know we have all felt at ITV in reporting something which has affected all our lives so deeply.

For me personally, being unable to travel for so much of that time has been tough. I have been separated from loved ones for many months but I know I am far from alone in that and I am so thankful for everyone here who has helped me to cope with that difficulty.

Performing on stage with Jersey Amateur Dramatic Club in West Side Story Credit: Jersey Amateur Dramatic Club

Living here has been the first time since university I have had to make a conscious effort to go out and make new friends. When I arrived in Jersey I had a vague idea that I could try to rekindle a hobby from my school days and get involved in a local drama group. Despite no experience of performing since then, within a few months I was on stage at the Jersey Opera House in the Jersey Amateur Dramatic Club production of West Side Story. A pantomime followed and, despite another two shows being postponed last year, this week I find myself on stage in Blue Remembered Hills. I am so grateful to everyone at the club for taking a chance on me and helping me rediscover a hobby which I am determined to keep up in the UK.

In recent months I have enjoyed walks to many favourite places around Jersey Credit: James Webster

I’ve spent the last few months trying to tick off the final few corners of Jersey I haven’t yet discovered thanks to a book of circular walks by John Le Dain which I received for Christmas in our Secret Santa at work. The routes are so well thought through and I have so enjoyed following them all. Only this week Sophia Bird confessed it was she who bought me the book without which there are many places I could have missed.

So here I am with just four days left in Jersey before my boat home. My friends from the UK have been texting me this week asking whether the fishermen’s blockade was some elaborate ploy to prevent me from leaving. But weather permitting on Tuesday evening I will be boarding the boat with my car full of possessions and my head full of the most amazing memories of my time here. From the night I went looking for the Neowise Comet at Grosnez in the dark, to the little trip I made over to St Malo and the glorious afternoons on so many favourite beaches.

I have a few favourite places left to visit to say my goodbyes. Hire one of the electric bikes and ride to Corbiere lighthouse. A walk from Grosnez to Plemont. An ice cream at St Catherine’s Pier. And my last full day in Jersey will be a repeat of what I did on my first full day in Jersey – a trip around Mont Orgueil castle. It feels fitting to end as I started.

I plan to spend my last full day in Jersey the same way I spent my first full day in Jersey - with a walk around Mont Orgueil castle. Credit: ITV Channel TV

I am absolutely dreading sitting in our studio this evening and saying a last goodnight. I can’t promise there won’t be a tear in my eye. I mean it so sincerely when I say how privileged I feel to have been invited into so many people’s homes each night. Thank you for having me and hopefully forgiving any time I have mispronounced any of the names of people or places which all sounded so strange to me when I first arrived but which now have a friendliness and familiarity which I will really miss.

You might wonder, when reading this why I am leaving when it sounds like it is making me so sad to go. There are many, many reasons I could find to stay – a job that I love, in a place that I love, broadcasting to people who have made me feel so welcome. But there is one reason for returning to the UK which none of those can beat and that is returning to my partner, my family and friends. Being separated from them is simply too much which is why I made the very difficult decision all those months ago to leave. In a couple of weeks I will be rejoining the team at ITV News in Yorkshire.

To the entire team at ITV Channel I say a heartfelt thanks for making me so welcome. They tell me that ‘Nobody really leaves Channel’ and that you will always be part of the Channel family.

And to everyone who watches our programme, I may be going but the programme goes on – reporting the stories that matter most to you. In a few weeks Jonathan Wills will be joining the team and I know how much he is looking forward to being here.

I will never forget my two and a half years here. I will be back to visit very often. The Channel Islands and the new friends I have made here will always have a very special place in my heart and that is why I will always love it here so much.

Goodbye and thank you for watching.