Walking and Birdwatching in Alderney
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From St Anne’s to Braye Beach – around 3 hours including some coastal paths and the Vau du Saou inland nature reserve
The small island of Alderney is some 20 miles north-east of Guernsey, although only three and a half miles long by one and a half miles wide, it is a great place for walking with over 50 miles of marked trails. Like neighbouring Guernsey, the fact that the coast path takes you in and out of coves makes for interesting walking, but in the case of Alderney there is also a multitude of sights to see, both natural and man-made, as well as many species of birds. Alderney is home to around 2% of the world population of northern gannets (around 11,000), with Les Etacs, a rocky outcrop visible from the southern cliffs. It also boasts the only colony of European storm petrels in the Channel Islands which is over 1% of the British population as well as a colony of Atlantic puffins.
There are some excellent printed walking guides available from the tourist information centre on Victoria Street, but we were lucky enough to be shown around by Anne-Isabelle Boulon, a fascinating and passionate English speaking guide from the Living Islands programme.
Leaving from St Anne’s we followed Water Lane a secluded path down to NewTown. This footpath offers shelter for many passerines all year round; species and behaviour change according to the season. Anne-Isabelle explained that during spring, birdsong comes from everywhere and especially from chiffchaff, wren, blackbird and tits who sing with all their hearts. During summer and early autumn, only the robin still sings but the bushes are teeming with life: greenfinch, blackcap and thrushes are numerous.
From there we turned right before climbing up onto Les Rochers the site of a German Fortress Bunker and now converted into a nature viewing platform. The views from here over the harbour, once for spotting the enemy approach, now allows a view of the beautiful Braye beach, a spotless sweep of white sand and the harbour protected by the half-mile long breakwater.
Anne-Isabelle talked to us about the Alderney Community Woodland which is a good place to see birds of prey and the rare (in England) raven. You can often see a buzzard taking off or a kestrel hovering. During spring, there is even a pair of sparrowhawk breeding. In late summer and early autumn, passerines (smaller perching birds) are attracted by the juicy fruits such as blackberries as they need to stock up on energy before their migration to the south.
Going back downhill towards Fort Albert we arrived at the old quarry railway which you can follow eastwards towards the lighthouse at the far north-eastern point of the island featuring Roman, Victorian and German fortifications. En route you pass by the most beautiful of beaches, Saye beach, just a mile from the town where you can swim in crystal clear water among the rock formations.
At Corblets Bay, herring and greater black-backed gulls enjoy resting on this quiet beach, and sometimes a Mediterranean gull can be spotted among them. From the end of July to April, groups of ringed plovers are often busy hunting sand hoppers close to the sea while the elegant little egret and the noisy oystercatchers prefer prey living in the rock pools.
Rounding the point along the flat coastal path we passed by Fort Hommeaux Florains, ruined but accessible to explore (with care) at low tide, and the almost intact medieval style Fort Houmet Herbé, before reaching the long sweeping Longis Bay which is backed by a Tank Wall. At low tide you can walk along the beach protected from the wind by the imposing wall.
From the end of the beach and the Roman fort we crossed back along the coast, ending at the Braye Beach Hotel which serves a very good afternoon tea and drinks on the veranda directly overlooking the sea.
For further information Visit Alderney
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