Islands are often highly diverse in terms of species and habitats and Alderney is no exception. Our small island boasts a kaleidoscope of habitats from species-rich grassland and heath land, as well as our diverse rocky shores and coastline - in 2005 the heterogeneity of Alderney's west coast received international recognition by its designation as a Ramsar site.
In terms of breeding birds, Alderney is arguably the most important of the Channel Islands, with internationally important colonies of Gannets which, unlike many of the British colonies, can be seen from mainland Alderney, as well as breeding Puffins, Guillemots, Razorbill and Fulmar, which can all be observed throughout the summer months from Alderney's shoreline, or by taking a boat trip around the island.
The heath land of Alderney, although small in size, is home to approximately 20 breeding pairs of Dartford Warbler - still an uncommon species in much of England. Another special species recently reported as breeding here is the Serin, which can be observed throughout the breeding season in the farmland areas. A variety of other more common breeding birds can be seen on a walk around the island, including Buzzard, Kestrel, Peregrine, Linnet, Blackcap and Ringed Plover. Notable migrants can unexpectedly turn up - in 2007 a Black Stork, Gyr Falcon, Wryneck, Ringed Ouzel and Honey Buzzard were all recorded and Hoopoe regularly arrive in the autumn.
Alderney is not only rich in bird species, but also insect life, boasting a moth list of over 400 species and an important population of the Glanville Fritillary butterfly which can be seen over most of the island in June, as well as the more recognized species such as the Common Blue, Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper and Long-tailed Blue and, in 2007, thirty Large Tortoiseshells were recorded - the largest number of the species recorded anywhere in the British Isles.
Among Alderney's mammals, the most notable is the blonde hedgehog population, which can be regularly seen around the island from March until November
The Alderney Wildlife Trust is very active on the island and not only provides more information on the island's wildlife but, during school holidays, often organises wildlife walks and talks suitable for both adults and children.
Playing golf in Alderney means visiting the links in Route de Carrieres where, along with a competitive course, players will enjoy stunning views over the English Channel and the Alderney Race.
Although the course area is quite compact, it has 18 tees, driving onto 9 greens and is challenging to low handicap players. The sea breezes can affect ball-flight on the tight fairways, so accuracy is paramount.
Holes are from 146yds par 3, to 427yds par 4. Total distances are 4976yds par 64 and 4739yds par 68.
The Club welcomes visitors throughout the season and there is no need to book tee-off time - hold-ups being a rare occurrence.
Open tournaments are held regularly in the summer and a warm welcome is extended to visiting golfers from any other golf club.
Parties should contact the Club to check for special offers on green fees and it should be noted that both clubs and trolleys can be hired from the Club, so saving extra baggage fees on visitor's flights.
Angling in Alderney offers both the novice and experienced angler some of the best salt water angling in the UK, if not North West Europe.
The many rocky outcrops and protected sandy bays provide so much protection for young marine life to develop beneath the waves. Combined with warm water currents rising from the Gulf and with one of the world's strongest tides through it's rise and fall, the rich diversity of marine life leads to a healthy population of sea birds, sea mammals and a great variety and stock of sea fish throughout the year.
Alderney is an ideal place for the novice to start sea angling, mainly because there are plenty of fish to be caught - there is also a chance of that 'fish of a lifetime' experience. Easy marks are available, with good access; local advice should be sought for guidance, however, before venturing onto any platform for the sake of safety. Having obtained 'the knowledge', expect to catch Pollack, Garfish and Wrasse with ease on float or lure and, who knows, an unwary Bass may fall to the bait as well.
The more experienced angler can enjoy some of the best fishing in the Autumn when bigger Bass come closer to the shoreline. Double figure fish are frequently caught and Black Bream and Thick Lipped Mullet shoal up in huge numbers in the bays and rocky outcrops, as they migrate from their summer feeding grounds in the UK. Bream up to 4lb are frequently caught from September onwards and Mullet to over 10lb have been landed, with 7lb to 8lb fish common. At the right time, it is possible to see rafts of fish just holding up in the bays.
Some of the largest shore caught Sole have come from Alderney's sandy coves and beaches, with fish up to 5lb. Alderney also has a very good population of Ballan Wrasse, these colourful fish being in good numbers and regularly caught to a weight of 6lb. Autumn sees good Conger Eel as well and Rays are fairly regular too. Blondes are the commonest, up to 21lb having been landed - Alderney jointly holds the British Shore Record at 32lb 8oz; Small Eyeds, Undulates and Spotted Rays can also be caught. Tope are often found locally and can be landed from the shore. Indeed October 2004 saw the current Channel Island Record caught at 50lb 8oz.
Winter fishing offers good sport, although it can become quiet in March before the Spring and Summer seasons start in earnest, when light rods and tackle are best with plenty of lure fishing for Bass, Pollack, Mackerel and, for those purists, fly fishing for Mullet and Bass from the causeways. Float, spinner or lure fishing is best for these predatory fish, found amongst any of Alderney's headlands flanked by the many sandy bays.
There have also been regular catches of Red Mullet, Golden Grey Mullet, Red Gurnard, Couches Sea Bream, Bull Huss, Codling, Plaice and Smoothhounds which may not appear on local UK fishing grounds, plus the rarer Gilthead Bream, Pandora's Bream, Coalfish and Triggerfish, all of which provide an exciting possibility to fall to the bait.
Between September 2005 and February 2006, five Alderney and/or Channel Island Records were broken, so there is always the possibility of being there with the best of them!
The local tackle shop offers not only good local knowledge, but also a wide range of fresh and frozen baits, plus basic to specialist tackle. Guiding and tuition is also available and many visiting anglers have found this comprehensive service invaluable during their stay on the Island.
For those people lucky enough to be able to get afloat, both with the local charter boat, or with one of the many UK skippers who regularly visit, the species mentioned above are available in good quantity and quality but, best of all, Alderney has arguably the best Turbot and Brill fishing on offer in the UK. The best fish recently taken (but landed in Guernsey!) was a new British record Turbot of 33lb, which was caught just a few miles from the coastline. This fish was caught in July but the best flatfish season is in early spring through to the summer, when it eases off but then resumes in September.
All in all, Alderney offers a wealth of quality fish in such a variety of species that novice and experienced anglers will really enjoy their visit, whether from shore, or afloat and with the added attraction of bagging that fish of a lifetime in surroundings which are an inspiration to those who take their outdoor pursuit seriously
Alderney is an Island of secrets, many only revealed by observation from a boat.
On a 'round island' trip you will see the most stunning rock formations and, at the right times of the year, these are festooned with different species of sea-birds.
These creatures instinctively know where the fishing is good, which is why they come to spend some time on Alderney.
In particular, the Gannet colonies are sensational. Watching these aerial acrobats wheeling above you, before plunging into deep water a few feet from the boat, then diving deep for their lunch, is quite amazing!
At the right time of year, it's possible to see small flocks of the famous Puffin, either on the water, or in the air. These natural clowns can be very entertaining.
If you are lucky you will see seals sunning themselves on the rocks and periodically performing for their admirers.
From this vantage point, Alderney looks every bit the clean and protected haven for our marine life and it a joy to see.
Neolithic to Roman times
Alderney was first occupied by Neolithic man, as shown by the Bronze Age artefacts discovered on Longis Common. Iron Age pots have also been found. The Roman fort, Castrum Longini, shows that they too were on the Island in some strength. Relics are to be found on display in the Alderney museum.
Norman to Elizabethan times
William the Conqueror, 7th Duke of Normandy, exchanged part of his lands in Guernsey for Alderney and Sark. This also gave rights and authority of the English Crown and the Bishop of Coutanches; a Sheriff and six Jurats (Judges} formed the basis of Alderney's government, the States and Constitution being unaltered until reform, in 1949.
Elizabeth I ordered Coutanches to hand over responsibility to the Bishop of Winchester and in 1560 the title of Governor of Alderney was purchased by John Chamberlain. Unfortunately, due to his involvement in the plot to put Mary Queen of Scots on the English throne, he lost the lease and eventually it passed to Robert Devereux, the 2nd Earl of Essex, who renamed it Essex Castle.
After a number of successions in title, Henry Le Mesurier inherited the Governorship in 1729. His jetty, built at Braye Harbour in 1736, still remains. Henry's brother, John, bought the title shortly after and built Government House (now the Island Hall) and the town school, succeeded by his brother Peter, whose son, John became the last hereditary governor until 1825.
Fear of the French galvanised the building of thirteen 'Palmerston' forts to protect the harbour.
Enlarging the harbour at Cherbourg was seen as a precursor to a possible attack, which Lord Palmerston felt could be kept in check by mooring the British fleet close by in Alderney, behind a purpose-built harbour wall. Most of the granite came from the quarry, but some was brought over from Portland, together with hundreds of Irish to carry out the construction of the forts and the new breakwater, which grew to 1600 yards. Unfortunately, due to winter storms, the outer 600 yards collapsed shortly thereafter but, since relations with the French had somewhat improved by then, nothing more was built. By the late 1800's, the British government had agreed to assist in the maintenance of the breakwater, until in the 1980's, Guernsey took over this role.
During World War II, Alderney's three German forced-labour camps, together with the notorious SS concentration camp, Lager Sylt, near the airport, housed many hundreds of prisoners from all over Europe, used as slave workers, to build Festung Europa. Many died in gruelling circumstances, with some being buried, but most remains were never identified. After the war, returning Islanders found Alderney had been devastated and had to ask Guernsey for help to rebuild, ending Alderney's long period of independence.
Alderney Flying Club
The Club was set up to promote flying on the Island and members include both residents and visitors.
In addition to organising the Annual Air Races, the Club welcomes many visiting aviators and their passengers throughout the year for informal events.
The Club's aircraft, a Piper Pa28-181 Archer - G-BXRG - is available for hire by members for trips to other Islands, France and the UK, plus extra flying training.
Alderney Flying Training
Offered through the Alderney Flying Club: PO Box 133, Alderney Airport, Alderney, GY9 3ER Tel: +44(0)1481 - 823053 Fax: +44(0)1481 - 823923
Experience a trial lesson in the club's Piper PA28-181 Archer, with the qualified instructor who will explain the course, as well as the aircraft itself and then take the aircraft up for a flight around the Island, or down the French coast, during which the student will take control for a time. The lesson includes temporary club membership for the student, plus aircraft hire, instructor and landing fees. A friend may come along for only £5 more!
|Lesson including 25 minute flight around Alderney||£85.00|
|Lesson including 75 minute flight along the French coast||£175.00|
|Starter Pack - 2 x 45 minute flying lessons, pilot's log book and study book||£265.00|
|Temporary passenger membership||£5.00|
The above can be offered as a gift voucher for that very special present . . . . .
Although Alderney Airport provides the commercial aviation for the Island, private flyers are also very welcome, especially at the local flying club, which assists the Royal Aero Club with the annual Island Air Race. Many private flyers stop in Alderney on their way South and day visitors come in to sample the local restaurants and unparalleled environment.
There is a resident instructor qualified for PPL, IMC and night ratings and visitors to the Island are very welcome to take a lesson or two. Please call on 01481-823053, or fax to 823923.
Alderney provides the nearest landing point from the South coast of England and offers three operational runways. The main runway, 26/08 is 880 metres long and is mainly tarmac, whilst the two secondary runways are both grass. 14/32 is 732 metres long, with 03/21 having a length of 497 metres.
The main runway is equipped with low intensity lighting, with portable lighting being available on runway 14/32. Alderney has an NDB (383.0 KHz 'ALD'), providing a useful approach aid.
Once on the ground, parking is free for 72 hours for private aircraft weighing less than three metric tonnes. Landing fees start from £8 for a single engine, but £16 for a twin, depending on aircraft weight, day of arrival, length of stay (minimum 1 night) and/or refuelling. Hangar space is limited, especially during the summer months, but tie downs are normally available.
The Airport is within Guernsey's airspace and, although VFR flights are subject to minimums and local air traffic rules, IFR rated pilots will be able to operate quite freely as long as they comply with the current requirements and have filed a flight plan after checking the latest NOTAMS and the UK Air Pilot. Jersey ATC Flight Planning can be contacted on 01534-492231.
Av-gas is available by calling 01481-824666 and stating ETA and amount required (minimum 20 litres) payment by all major cards, cash and cheque (with card) is accepted. Should Av-gas be required without prior notice, please allow time for the operator to get to the airport.
Alderney Tower can be contacted on 01481-822851 to talk to the duty controller for general aviation information, as well as the latest weather, plus further information on landing fees, etc.
Alderney is a popular port of call for visiting sailors heading for either the Channel Islands or to visit France.
Guernsey is often just that bit too far to sail on one passage from the UK and Alderney welcomes visiting yachtsmen to its large harbour at Braye.
The Harbourmaster's Office, at the SW end of the harbour, should be contacted on arrival - Alderney Radio, VHF 16, 74 - for permission to moor up on a visitor's buoy and then either the boat's own tender, or the Mainbrayce harbour taxi, can be used to get ashore. Weather forecasts and reports are found at the Harbourmaster's Office or on VHF from Alderney Radio, which can also supply a Radar VTS and RDF service. There are no Coastguard stations in the Channel Islands, so the Harbourmaster's office fulfils this function in Alderney.
There are two local passage areas that should be treated with respect, the Swinge, to the North West and the Race, to the East of the Island. Although there are infamous tales told about them in sailing circles, they are perfectly friendly when traversed with planning and at the correct states of the wind and tide.
The lights and day marks are very clear and found on all good charts, as are clear passage notes for the area. There are also alternative anchorages around the Island, giving shelter dependant on the wind direction and offering somewhere to wait for the tidal streams to change in the yacht's favour.
More information can be found on the Alderney Government Website.
There are over 30 clubs and associations on Alderney and there's always something going on. Cultural, social and sporting gatherings and events take place quite regularly. Please refer to the list of just some of the leisure activity clubs that welcome visitors whilst they are staying here.
|Alderney Railway Society||01481-822978|
|Alderney Wildlife Trust||01481-822935|
|Alderney Angling Club||01481-824151|