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  • Alderney rocks with birds
  • Alderney fortification
  • Alderney bay and road

Walking in Alderney

Dramatic cliff top views, white sandy beaches, rockpools, historic fortifications, cobbled streets and wildlife come to mind when describing some of the things you might see whilst walking in Alderney. The mild climate means walking is a pleasure at any time of year but the tiny island blossoms from spring through to autumn with wildflowers and wildlife. At just 3.5 by 1.5 miles and with the small amount of traffic limited to 35mph on the main roads, uncovering the varied terrain of woodlands, commonland and coastal paths uninhibited by car noise and fumes, is blissful.

Wildlife walks

Alderney is a veritable haven for birdlife but you may also see black rabbits or the creamy spines of a flea-less blonde hedgehog if you’re lucky. Slow worms, the only reptile on the island, may hide under rocks in the grasslands and Oxford Sandy Black pigs have become the islands newest second main livestock. Central Alderney is a mix of farmland, woodland and commonland with undulating hills and valleys leading out towards the coast. In season, the woods brim full of bluebells whilst elderflower and blackthorn line the way. The heathlands, alive with coconut scented gorse, attract butterflies and insects and have become important breeding areas for some species such as the Glanville Fritillary butterfly. Alderney Wildlife Trust work hard to preserve the diverse range of habitats and maintain two nature reserves at Val du Saou in the south and Longis in the east. Clonque Bay has been designated a Ramsar wetlands site of international importance and all the areas support a mix of marine habitats and often rare flora and fauna not seen elsewhere in the British Isles. Colonies of puffins and gannets inhabit the rocky outcrops of Les Etacs, Ortac and Burhou island along with 11 other species of migrant birds including storm petrels. When heading towards Burhou and Fort Clonque, look out for Dartford warblers and dunes full of sea kale and sea holly before exploring rockpools full of starfish and crabs under the watchful eyes of oystercatchers and some of the other wading birds. Over 160 species of seaweed have been identified here! You may also just catch sight of the short eared owl in some of the valleys towards the town. Along the south eastern side of the island, peregrines, buzzards and ravens can be seen flying around the cliff tops whilst inland at its freshwater pond you can make for the bird hide and watch kingfishers hover over the tall reed beds. Another hide in the northeast at Mannez overlooks a dragonfly rich pond. Its well worth taking binoculars and a couple of bird and flower guides, although the hides offer plenty of useful information.

Goldworthy Stones walk

In 2008, students from Guernsey Art College joined with Andy Goldworthy in creating 11 art installations around Alderney. These took the form of large boulders, around 5 feet in diameter and have been constructed from natural resources found on the island. Depending on the situation, the boulders have anything from poppy seeds included in their make up when near German fortifications to fishing lines and discarded gloves. As coastal erosion takes hold year upon year, the idea is the boulders will begin to reveal their hidden secrets. However, the stones also make for an interesting and varied walk around the coastal paths, taking in all around 16 miles to complete.

Historic ventures

You will never be far from an historic fortification on Alderney and the islanders have been creative in their usage. Stemming from Roman, Victorian and German invasions, many of the bunkers, batteries and tunnels have been creatively reinvented. Venture eastwards inland from St Anne to see the Fortress Kommandants bunker at Ho-Höhe or head towards the steep valley of Val du Saou for a spot of birdwatching from the German wartime communication bunker. For anyone with an interest in World War II and the Occupation, the range of fortifications in such a concentrated area is vast (although it is wise to enquire at the visitor information centre as to which ones are safe to visit.) Towards the eastern end of the island, running from Braye Beach up towards Les Rochers, an area now planted as community woodland probably indicates the earliest human place of habitation as neolithic stone circles have been discovered. As the ever changing pattern of the sand dunes uncover more over time, the remains of an iron age pottery at Les Huguettes has also been revealed. More recent historic architecture can be seen in the main town of St Anne, at the church and gardens whilst in the valleys towards the northeast, a more modern pottery works closed in 2010. The islands disused watermill also lies in this direction and work continues to restore a series of 3 dams in the area. 

Small circular walks around Alderney

Despite its petite size, Alderney offers over 50 miles of walks. Many can be broken down into a series of smaller circular walks, ideal for an afternoon’s amble. The nature reserve at Longis is a good one for wildlife or for more of a steep challenge take the valleys from St Anne to Val du Saou on the southern cliffs. Long sandy beaches tend to lie towards the north of the island if you fancy a walk and a swim or head towards the forts of Clonque or Tourgis for rockpool excavations. For a gentle seaside filled walk, climb the hill from Braye Harbour and enjoy the atmosphere of the cobbled streets of St Anne. Whether you decide to escape to peaceful lanes and woodland, dramatic cliffs or a swim on the beach, you will never be far from the town and a bite to eat!

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Alderney walking highlights:

  • Visit Longis and Mannez bird hides
  • Val du Saou nature reserve
  • Clonque Bay Ramsar Wetlands Site
  • The Goldsworthy Stones
  • Historic Fortifications
  • Neolithic stone circles
  • Puffin and rare bird breeding ground at Les Etacs, Ortac and Burhou Island
 
 

Useful walking resources for Alderney

  • A series of maps and routes around the various walks on Alderney can be found at the Alderney Visitor information centre Tel: +44 (0)1481 823737 or +44 (0)1481 822333
  • Alderney Wildlife Trust organises guided walks with a specialist interest in the wildlife and natural habitats on Alderney.Visit alderneywildlife.org or Tel: +44 (0)1481 822935
  • For an insight into the making of the Goldsworthy Stones and a useful location map take a look at the alderneystones.com website