Alderney may be only three miles long – but it packs a lot of punch into its tiny size.
And this Spring there’s an action packed diary of cultural, wildlife and history themed events to help you squeeze the most out of your trip to beautiful, unspoiled Alderney.
Here are some of the highlights:
Alderney Literary Festival, 23rd-25th March: A boutique three day festival focusing on historical writings, fact and fiction, opened by best selling author and festival chairman, Simon Scarrow.
Channel Island Heritage Festival (30th March-10th May) including Alderney Heritage Week. Learn about Alderney’s unique blend of Roman, Victorian and WWII history via walks, talks and trips.
Wildlife: Boat trips to see the Island’s gannet colony with Alderney Wildlife Trust, Bat and hedgehog walks; self guided walking tours along the Island’s dramatic coastline can elicit sightings of Alderney’s plethora of migrant birds, such as the rare Dartford Warbler settling in for the summer in the blazing stretches of gorse bush.
Lighthouse and railway trips (from April onwards): Discover Alderney’s picturesque Trinity House lighthouse via the Channel Islands’ only working railway.
Easter specials: Join in the fun and informative Easter Shark Egg hunt with Alderney Wildlife Trust and climb on board for the Easter Bunny Express on the Islands’ quirky London Underground Tube train.
For a full list of everything going on in Alderney in Spring 2018 go to www.visitalderney.com/events
CARPETED in wild flowers and set against a sparkling azure sea, Spring finds Alderney at its very prettiest.
It’s the perfect time to visit the third largest of the Channel Islands. Alderney’s flora and fauna starts to wake up after its winter sleep and spring sunshine warms the quaint cobbled streets of St Anne.
Alderney is very different from either of its larger sister islands – small on traffic and crime and big on nature, on clean, white sand beaches, friendliness and old fashioned yester year charm.
But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do. Far from it.
While relaxing into the Island’s gentle “Alderney time” pace of life, take a dive into Alderney’s colourful history, wildlife and culture themed events and activities.
From February to May, there’s lots to do.
If you’re into history and books, why not arrange a visit to coincide with Alderney’s Literary Festival where a top notch selection of hand picked authors offer fascinating insights into exciting times in history.
This year’s festival features conversations with Antonia Hodgson, author of the award winning novel The Devil in the Marshalsea and Baron Thomas of Gresford, OBE, QC offers insights into the life of abandoned Queen Caroline of Brunswick and her companion Miss Hayman. Keith Lowe meanwhile presents a talk on The Mythology of World War II.
Here’s what authors are saying about Alderney’s Literary Festival:
Simon Scarrow: “The organisation was flawless and that’s WHY this festival and the last were such a success. It’s a great mix of contributors, organisers and audience. There’s no festival quite like it.” Manda Scott said: “I have never been so well looked after at any literary festival – the atmosphere is completely unique, and the islanders are literate, engaging and inspiring. If you haven’t been, go! You won’t forget it.”
History underpins this year’s Channel Islands Heritage Festival (30th March – 10th May) – and Alderney has its own very distinct story, unique from the rest of the Channel Islands. For example, the building now known as The Nunnery is home to the only standing Roman building in the Channel Islands and as recently as this summer a Roman burial grounds was discovered.
Alderney bristles with Victorian and – as it was occupied by around 4,000 German soldiers during World War II – German fortifications. The Heritage Festival offers the opportunity to discover the Island’s rich layers of history, with guided tours of forts, bunkers and gun emplacements.
Head into Alderney Museum to discover some of the fascinating artefacts unearthed on Alderney from Roman, Neolithic times, and Elizabethan times such as three cannon, brought up from an Elizabethan wreck discovered in waters nearby. The museum also has exhibits on the German Occupation and the shadowy slave labour camps that existed on Alderney during the Occupation.
There’s living history in the shape of the Channel Islands only working railway line – it constructed for transporting granite from quarries to the magnificent Victorian Breakwater at Braye. It’s a must for railway enthusiasts and fans of the quirky – the carriage is an old Tube carriage. And there’s a special treat at Easter when the service transforms into the Easter Bunny express – where children can keep their eyes peeled for Easter eggs and the Bunny himself.
While you are up at that end of the Island, check out Alderney’s 32-metre black and white striped Mannez lighthouse – a vital institution built in 1912 to keep ships from the rocks in the treacherous Race. Guided tours are available every Sunday from April 8th until the end of September.
Alderney is becoming increasingly well known in the UK for the numbers and variety of migratory birds found calling in on the Island, using it as a pit stop on their way north from winter roosts in Southern Europe and Africa.
April is the month when surprises drop in – rarities like hoopoe, black flycatchers, ring ouzels and wrynecks have all been spotted in recent years. Migrants from France carried on a strong easterly wind have included white stork, bluethroat and a bee-eater.
Alderney now boasts the most southerly Bird Observatory in the UK and two hides in protected areas are ideal spots from which to view birdlife. In January and February come to spot waterfowl in the reed beds at Longis – water rail, shoveler, teal, snipe and, if you’re lucky, kingfishers and garganey ducks can make an appearance. Many waders can be seen during winter, feeding in the rock pools and on the sandy beaches. The most common species include little egrets, grey herons, oystercatcher, ringed plover, sanderling and curlew; but dunlin, ruddy turnstone and bar-tailed godwit are spotted every winter.
From the start of the year onwards the first breeding seabirds arrive back to their nesting spots on and off the Island’s coastline. Alderney’s gannets return in February to their breeding colonies on Les Etacs: (5,909 pairs) and Ortac (2,777 pairs) and fulmars in the cliffs in January. Both species can be seen from “the Guns” in the Giffoine during winter. Alderney’s iconic puffins come back to their traditional spots on Burhou, a tiny islet just off Alderney, in mid March and guillemots and razorbills also make their return to the Island’s waters.
A great way to nature spot is via Visit Alderney’s nine self-guided walks or by taking on the Coastal Path Challenge. In spring Alderney’s glorious coastal paths are ablaze with colour; gorse, broom, heather, the native bluebell and the white three cornered leek. You may even spot Alderney’s iconic breeding passerine, the Dartford warbler singing from the gorse.