101. Alderney Part 1

July 2012

The last of the Channel Islands that I visited and walked around is Alderney. Alderney is the third largest of the islands, but unusually for an island it does not have much in the way of ferry services. The only ferry services are from France, with Manche Iles Express who run only about half a dozen trips a year(!) from Dielette in France. In addition the Lady Maris II runs twice a week during the summer months from Cherbourg (on Saturday and Wednesday) and from Guernsey and Sark on Thursday but it is only a 12 passenger boat and not really a ferry.

Instead Alderney has an airport which has daily flights from Guernsey and Southampton, the (only two routes operated from Alderney), run by Aurigny. I looked into the possibility of doing this as a day trip from Guernsey but it wasn’t really feasible. So instead I decided to leave the campsite at Guernsey and travel on to Alderney, then fly back home from Alderney. This is also not especially cheap as the flight from Guernsey to Alderney cost £39.

So I had breakfast then returned to my tent to pack it up for the short journey over to Alderney. To my surprise when I came back a Dutch couple, who had travelled on the overnight ferry were just setting up next to my camp. I returned to pack up the tent and I hope they didn’t think I was moving to get away from them! Having packed up my tent I walked down the road with all my luggage to reach the main road, where I took the bus to the airport.

It was a tiring walk with all my luggage and there was only a small narrow pavement to wait for the bus. Unfortunately, so called “pavement surfing” is very common by drivers on Guernsey because the roads are narrow and the pavements have a much lower curb than in the UK so I had to keep an eye out for this and move my luggage if required. Thankfully the bus was on time and I was at the airport 10 minutes later.

This was another reason I had flown from the UK in the first place because I knew I would be travelling on to Alderney but because of the small planes used on the routes to Alderney I had to fit a weeks worth of clothes and all my camping equipment into a 15KG weight limit, but fortunately they did not limit the number of bags only the total weight. I was pleased to find that although my tents was still slightly damp when I packed it up this morning (because it had rained heavily the previous day) I was still within the weight limit.

Once checked in and my bags handed over I headed for the departure lounge, which is one big room for all the flights at Guernsey. We had to watch a safety video before getting on because the only cabin crew on the flight is the pilot.

We were soon led out to the plane, which was, as I expected, tiny. In fact it was a Britten Norman Trislander, a quirky little 3-engined proller plane originally built in Bembridge on the Isle of Wight, with the last one being produced in 1980, meaning they are now more than 35 years old! It is a longer version of the Islander that I travelled on to the Isles of Scilly.

Trislander at Alderney Airport

We only had to get on via a little step on the ground and it was like getting into the back of a 3-door car with the row of seats in front folding down. The interior is very cramped, but it is only a short flight, so it did not matter.

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We flew out over the north west corner of Guernsey giving me a view of the coast I had walked around a few days previously.

L'Eree Headland

It was only a few minutes after the coast of Guernsey had disappeared from view that we approached Alderney.

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I was pleased to note as we approached that the runway at Alderney is tarmac. I love flying on these little planes as you can see everything the pilot does, a rare treat these days.

We touched down smoothly on the runway at Alderney and stopped quickly, as the runway is short and taxied to the tiny little terminal building, a portacabin really.

Our luggage was very soon delivered and I headed outside the airport. I had not been able to find out anything for sure about if there was a bus service on Alderney other than a vague reference that there was an “occasional” service. Although there is no car ferry to the islands, it is possible to hire a car on the island  although I didn’t bother as it is around 3 miles from one side of the island to the other. Instead when I came out the airport looking to see if there was a bus I was met by a taxi driver who asked me if I was “Mr X” (I can’t remember the surname). I explained that I wasn’t and she asked me if there were some empty seats on the flight. I confirmed they were and she looked a little despondent that “they’ve obviously missed their flight then”, but then responded “would you like a taxi?”. Since there didn’t seem to be any other option this seemed like the best idea, since the campsite was at the other side of the island.

The fare was £10 which I thought a little steep but in fact was quite good. She was a little shocked that I was going home again the next day but having taken down my details promised to collect me in time for my flight tomorrow too. On the way to the campsite she stopped at numerous places to show me the sights of the island, so it turned out my taxi ride doubled as a tour of the island, which was a nice bonus (the meter wasn’t running). I reached the campsite 10 minutes or so later where the taxi driver found the owner who showed me the facilities and apologised that it was a little basic as they were having a new facility block built but it was not yet complete and running behind schedule, so we had to use the old one. Given the low price paid it was perfectly fine, I never had to wait, it was clean and there was warm water, which is all I could ask for really.

The campsite was wonderfully located just behind the dunes at what I think is the best beach on the island, Saye Beach. I set my tent up behind the dunes, keen to be close to the beach as I was hoping to go to sleep listening to the sound of the waves. Once set up it was a little after midday so I had most of the afternoon and early evening to explore the island, as well as the next morning.

Saye Beach, Alderney

I walked along a rough path through the dunes to the south edge of the beach. It was, like so many of the beaches on the Channel Islands almost deserted. Indeed I think the more expensive transport links to Alderney mean it is the least visited of the Channel Islands.

Saye beach

It is, as I think you will agree, a truly gorgeous beach that again looks like something you might find in the Caribbean, but it is much closer to home!

Saye beach

Saye beach

At the far end of the beach was another military building but this one looked older than World War II. Alderney like the other Channel Islands was occupied by the Germans during World War II, but unlike the other islands, the island was evacuated prior to the arrival of the Germans, so the islanders were off the island through most of the war. Like the other islands, it was heavily fortified by the Germans and the structures they built now dot the island.

From the end of the beach I had reached Bibette Head and the path raised up a little to a large fort, Fort Albert, which seemed to still be in use for at least something. It offered fine views back to the headland.

Bibette Head, Alderney

Ahead is Fort Albert, partly private it reminded me a little of the fort on Portland, being built into the cliffs and rocks.

Fort Albert and Roselle Battery

It was about here I discovered I had a problem with my camera. I had bought my normal camera at the time (a Canon EOS400d) but had spent the previous day over on Herm where it poured with rain all day. It turned out my bag was not entirely waterproof so the camera bag was a little soggy. However the camera had I think remained dry. However I forgot about it when I got back to my tent and had left it in my damp bag, in the damp camera case. By the time I reached Alderney and switched it on, it was not working properly. Every time I switched it on, it would act as if the shutter button was held down, firing off photos continually. In the end it filled up the memory card, but I discovered it would then report the card full and the other buttons would respond. This meant I could delete one of the photos it took whereupon it would take one more and then report the card was full up again. By doing this I was at least able to have some control.

I had to head inland to get around the large Fort Albert and Roselle Battery that I could see below me. You can also see the very large harbour wall of Braye Harbour, the main harbour on the island in the distance.

Fort Albert and Roselle Battery

Beyond this I could descend down onto the road passing the football pitch and return to the coast and follow the path behind the lovely beach at Bray Bay which I think is the second best beach on the island.

Corblets Bay, Alderney

Someone had had fun by the look of it putting lines down out of pebbles on the beach. It was a calm warm day and a few people were about enjoying the beach.

I could see the attractive bright coloured houses of Braye at the far end of the beach.

Braye Beach, Alderney

I walked south partly along the beach and partly along the grass at the back of the beach.

Braye Beach, Alderney

At the south end of the beach the path rejoined the road at the western end of the beach. I was a bit surprised to see this.

Braye Road station

This is Braye Road station and yes Alderney has a railway service, the only one of the islands that does. However judging by the person walking along the track, it does not run very often (I found out later it only runs on summer weekends, and it was a Friday, so it was not running). It uses an old London Underground train pulled by a diesel locomotive and is more a tourist attraction than any real public transport system.

At the far end of the harbour there was a track down behind those brightly coloured buildings, at least one of which is a hotel and another includes a restaurant.

Braye Harbour, Alderney

At the bottom you could go behind them and walk up the main street of Braye. It was quiet pretty, but very quiet.

Braye harbour, Alderney

Thankfully, there was a shop, it was open, and I could get lunch there, which I had on a seat overlooking the harbour. There were fine views from my lunch spot back over Braye Bay and to the headland with Fort Albert on beyond.

Braye beach, Alderney

Once I had had lunch I returned to the road to head past the harbour. The harbour in Alderney is large, with a particularly large breakwater. Despite this, it seemed very quiet in comparison with the other islands.

Braye Harbour, Alderney

Braye Harbour, Alderney

Despite the harbour size, there is not a ferry to the island. There is no linkspan for unloading vehicles which probably does not help, only a freight service operates to the island (from Poole, I believe).

Once past the harbour I rounded the corner to reach a small shingle beach, Crabby Bay. I presume so named because crabs are found here.

Crabby Bay, Alderney

I followed the road behind the beach.

Crabby Bay, Alderney

There was a little rocky headland separating this beach from the next one, Platte Saline, or Saline Bay as it is usually called.

Saline Bay, Alderney

This was another good beach, a mixture of sand and shingle. I followed the beach for a while and then headed onto the minor road behind it instead. There were good views back, with Braye now disappearing from view.

Saline Bay, Alderney

A coast path rounded another fort, this one Fort Tourgis.

Out to sea from here I could see another island just off the coast.

Burhou

This is the island of Burhou. It is not inhabited and a bird sanctuary from which visitors are banned between March and late July, so it was out of bounds on my visit and in any case I was unable to find anyone running any boat services out to it.

It was a lovely spot to enjoy the view and watch the sea crashing over the various rocks in the bay. Rounding the corner I was greeted with another impressive sight.

Clonque Bay, Alderney

This is Clonque Bay and as you can see the coast is now becoming more rugged with cliffs behind the beach rather than dunes and low rocks I’ve had so far.

At the far end, almost on an island is another fort. This is Fort Clonque. This is a 19th Century fort built to defend the island and now a rather remarkable holiday cottage, owned by the Landmark Trust and accessed via a causeway and surrounded by water.

There is a good coast path below the tops of the cliffs around this beach. This gave me a good view back along the beach with Fort Tourgis visible on top of the cliffs at the far end of the bay.

Clonque Bay, Alderney

I soon reached the causeway out to Fort Clonque. It was tempting to walk out to take a look anyway, despite the signs saying it was private but I decided against it in the end (after all, I’m sure I would not like people doing that if I had hired it).

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At the end of the slipway I could put it off no longer, for the coast path now climbed steeply to the top of the cliffs, along a zig-zag path.

I could now see the causeway out to Fort Clonque very clearly and the island of Burhou in the distance. That fort really has a wonderful location.

Fort Clonque, Alderney

The coastal scenery now was terrific, with rocky eroding cliffs and numerous rocky little islands, with the sea crashing into them.

Trois Vaux Bay, Alderney

It really was a terrific path and it soon took me out to a little headland and viewpoint, where there was more old remains of military forts, but I was rather more distracted by the view out to sea.

Les Etacs, Alderney

These rocks are also a bird sanctuary and are called Les Etacs. The rocks are mostly white in colour, a mixture of the birds themselves sitting there, and their droppings. There was a fine seat here and another man was sitting here taking in the view. We got talking a bit and he was on a weeks holiday on the island and very much enjoying it.

The rugged path I was following continued south passing more impressive coastal scenery.

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I was now rounding the corner to reach the south west coast of the island and Telegraph Bay, presumably because this is where the telegraph cables to the island first reached land.

Telegraph Bay, Alderney

Telegraph Bay, Alderney

The south west coast of the island is particularly stunning. I was really enjoying this part of the path.

Telegraph Bay, Alderney

I was now also close to the airport on the left, but it is only small and there are few flights, so I didn’t really notice other than this odd notice which seemed to be missing the word “be”.

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There was a little grassy valley to negotiate and then another rugged rocky bay.

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The coast path made it’s way through heather and gorse and soon I had a view along the south coast of the island, which seemed to be a bit less rugged, but still very pleasant.

The south coast of Alderney

The path was very pleasant and easy now heading past gorse and bracken with more rocks visible just off the coast ahead.

The south coast of Alderney

I continued along the easy path along the south coast until I was approaching the island “tip”. After all the beautiful scenery it was rather a shock to see a car scrapyard and rubbish piled on the cliff top as well as some cars ending up part way down the cliff.

South coast of Alderney

I decided to end my coastal walk for the day here and resume tomorrow. I was near the capital of the island St Anne here, so decided to head inland to explore the capital. Unlike the other islands, on Alderney the capital is in the centre of the island rather than on the coast.

It was a short walk along the road into the cobbled streets of the capital, which was well kept and very pleasant.

St Anne

St Anne

The streets were all cobbled and some had bunting over them too giving a very pleasant scene.

St Anne

Bright shops

I was amused to see this shop.

St Anne

Perhaps it is where Arkwright from the BBC Open All Hours retired and is not open all hours any more!

St Anne

Having explored the town I followed the road down back to Braye Harbour where I stopped for a takeaway. I sat on the harbour wall again to eat it. Cloud had been increasing during the day and a few minutes after I finished I felt a few spots of drizzle in the air so I decided to head back to my tent. I stuck to the roads this time, as I thought it would be quicker. I was pleased that I did so, as I passed this rather lovely carving of a puffin from an old tree stump.

Carved puffin

I was really impressed with Alderney. I hadn’t known much about the island before I came here but what I found was a very pretty and well kept island with friendly people. The coast had been wonderful with the beautiful Saye Beach and Braye beaches and then the wonderful rugged rocky west coast of the island made a great end to the day. It had been a good day and I was looking forward to finishing my walk around the island the next day.

 

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One Response to 101. Alderney Part 1

  1. What a wonderful day of walking. Love the beaches and well done for managing to take some decent photos despite the camera problems. I really must visit the Channel Islands. A group of my friends have discussed hiring that Landmark Trust property for a holiday, but never got round to doing it.

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