I’m not so sure about the monsters, but the sea off the Cape de la Hague on the way to Alderney is certainly a bit lively – even at relatively slack water.
To be fair to Neptune, however, his fury was stirred by a force 5-6 westerly breeze running in the opposite direction to whatever tide there was. The photograph of the boat at the start of this post gives a good impression of the conditions whipped up by that unholy combination. He was around 200 metres away, and I’m sure his view of us was much the same. It certainly had an effect on Maria.
Apart from the lumpy-ness, getting into Alderney was simple enough. There is no marina here (just mooring buoys) and – as a tribute to Maria’s boat-hook wielding skills – we were able to pick one up first time. This means, for anyone who has experienced this, that you can claim superiority over every other boat coming in.
To get from your mooring onto land, the options are to either to call the taxi service provided by Mainbrayce chandlers and hand over your £2 per person, or use your own dinghy. The latter requires more faith in your outboard motor than I possess. It’s a good one but is prone to the occasional sulk. And if your outboard were to fail on an outgoing tide, there is a chance of being sent on a long journey out to the Casquets.
It was the taxi for us.
Alderney is like no other place we have visited. It is a truly unique island full of charm. The people are friendly, it has a relaxed feel to it, and it is a great place to go to help slow down.
Friday night seemed a busy one… a flying club had descended en-masse and ensconced themselves in the Rose and Crown pub. The place was packed. According to one of the locals we spoke with later, the number of people usually in that pub at the weekend you can count on the amputated fingers of one hand.
Being so small, you can guarantee seeing the same people at least three times. Our empirical research proves this: the flying people we met at the pub we also saw at Nellie Grey’s Indian restaurant that night (very good) and again the next day in the town. We also saw the water taxi man from the morning at Nellie Grays and again at the Braye Hotel. Maybe that helps keep the crime rate low… you wouldn’t be able to get away with much. And as a result, this is a place where keys can be left in cars, houses can be left unlocked, and people can be free to relax.
Originally we planned to stay only for a couple of nights, but when Maria heard about the tourist train (only runs on Sundays) – that was straight off the table and we were staying until Monday. And it was certainly worth it.
The train – originally built in the 1840’s to ferry stones from the quarry to build the breakwater and the Victorian forts – runs from Braye up to the Mannez Quarry. From the quarry you can easily walk to the lighthouse at Quesnard Point, where as luck would have it, a tour was about to take place. So we stumped up the cash and joined in.
This was our first time inside a lighthouse and it was fascinating. The old bulbs are long gone, the foghorns are no longer in commission and the machinery is there purely to showcase its history. But it is still a working lighthouse, using LED lights instead of bulbs and generators. And it is still maintained by Trinity House.
Alderney is steeped in history, not least of all because in June 1940 the entire island was evacuated. The Germans moved in, and the islanders returned to see a very changed place in December 1945. One of the physical legacies is the odd-looking building close to the quarry, colloquially named the ‘Odeon’. This is in fact an old German wartime bunker built by the Germans during their occupation of Alderney to provide early warning and defence against the allies.
A coffee at the Braye Beach Hotel overlooking the harbour, rounded off the day, followed by the taxi back to Lady Jane.
I can understand why people stick around here. It’s the sort of place that is hard to leave – for all the right reasons.