There’s nothing more eerie than walking through the abandon skeleton of what once was a thriving village.
La Manche Village was a community on the east coast of the Avalon Peninsula between Cape Broyle and Tors Cove in a small inlet surrounded by steep hills. It is about a 45-minute hike from La Manche Provincial Park.
The area is now more famous for the LaManche suspension bridge.
The village and bridge have two access points. The easiest access point is to park at the end of the La Manche Road, off highway 10 past the entrance to La Manche Provincial park, and walk for less than 2 km to the bridge. This trail is easy but hard at times so be prepared.
You can also hike 2.7 km along the East Coast Trail from Bauline East. You can park at the designated East Coast Trail parking place at the harbour and hike south from there. Be sure to make a pit stop at the beautiful and hidden Doctor’s Cove beach.
In French "La Manche" means "the sleeve". The area is named for the shape of the harbour, which is long and narrow with high sides. This harbour was probably first used by the French because of its seclusion which offered cover between raids on Ferryland and St. John's.
The community was first settled in the 1840s, apparently by a George Melvin from nearby Burnt Cove. La Manche had been used as a fishing harbour for many years and was known as one of the best fishing coves on the southern shore.
La Manche Village was one of Newfoundland's most picturesque communities. Limited by the amount of land available in the area, the community remained small, its population peaking at about 54 around the time of Confederation.
Although a majority of residents were apparently opposed to resettlement, the closure of the school and the continuing isolation of the community prompted some to leave.
By 1961 the population had fallen to 25. Others continued to reject the notion of resettlement, but their resolve gave way in 1966 when a severe storm demolished the community's extensive network of stages and wharves.
Today, its stages, flakes and wharves have disappeared into the ocean and thick brush. The concrete remains of houses and rock walls have been destroyed by spray paint vandals, drunken campers and mother nature.
It is such a shame to see this small hard-working community sink into the past. It is only a matter of time before even the concrete basements and lone standing chimney fall to rubble.
Throughout what is left of this small village you will see: concrete stairs to houses that no longer exist, frames to basements with window holes still intact but glass long gone, carefully built rock walls and fences that still withstand the harsh Newfoundland weather.
Standing inside the remains of a house I wonder: Who were they? Do they ever come back? What is their story?
The area surrounding La Manche Village is absolutely beautiful. You can set up camp there and I have on two occasions. If you do, please be respectful and don’t leave your garbage behind.
Visit but don’t destroy.
Think of the fisherman and their families who built this community and the history that is hidden in its high hills.
If you love the outdoors put La Manche Village and the suspension bridge on your list of things to visit in Newfoundland and Labrador.
** Details found at Maritime History Achieve https://www.mun.ca/mha/resettlement/lamanche_1.php
Newfoundland and Labrador Government web site: http://www.tcii.gov.nl.ca/parks/p_lm/