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Channel Islands : Alderney


Alderney is the third largest and the most northerly of the Channel Islands. It lies just 8 miles off the Normandy coast of France, and is the nearest to the mainland of Britain. The island is a British Crown dependency and a constituent part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey. It is governed by its own assembly, the States of Alderney, comprising ten members and a President, all of whom are elected by the people. Alderney is not part of the United Kingdom and is not a member of the European Union. The island is some three and a half miles long, one and a half miles wide and totals only 2000 acres. It has a resident population of around 2,400, increasing during the summer months to peak at around 4,000 and St. Anne is the main town.

On 23rd June 1940, the entire population of some 1,400 residents of Alderney was evacuated, nine days in advance of the German arrival. Between July 1940 and December 1945, the Island was extensively fortified by the German military. It was used by the Nazi government to house three forced labour camps and an SS Concentration camp, holding up to 1,500 prisoners each, over four hundred of whom are known to have died. When the islanders began returning in December 1945, they found their homes stripped of everything, many containing not a scrap of wood. The winter of 1944 – 45 had found two thousand German soldiers, sailors and airforce gunners without fuel, so that many houses that had been habitable until then were lost by the time of the surrender. The British Government issued basic supplies to islanders on their return to help them reinstate their homes.

Renewable Energy & Eco Housing

Alderney Electricity Ltd began in 1938 as the Alderney Light and Power Company. At the time of the evacuation few homes were connected to the supply, most being lit by gas. During the occupation the German Forces installed electricity to the whole of the island, and when the islanders returned in 1945 they found most of their homes now had electricity.

After the war the company was first run by the British Army and then the States of Guernsey until eventually in 1952 it was agreed that Christy Brothers of Chelmsford would take over the running of the company with the States of Alderney and the States of Guernsey together with some private individuals and the Christy family being shareholders. This was the case until 1979 when the Christy family pulled out and the States of Alderney appointed an independent Board of Directors to run the Company. The Company is still run by a Board of Directors, with the States of Alderney being the major shareholder.

In 2008 the company undertook a major capital investment program by installing three large new Paxman oil generators with sufficient capacity to meet the island’s current electrical needs of 1.5 MW for decades to come. These new engines are run when there is a high demand as they have better fuel efficiency at higher loads. When demand drops, for example at night, the older Blackstone engines carry the load. The distribution network and sub-stations were also upgraded to carry higher electrical loads.

The Alderney Commission for Renewable Energy was established in 2007 with powers to licence and regulate the operation, deployment, use or management of all forms of renewable energy in the island of Alderney and its territorial waters. Unlike the other Channel Islands, it owns 3 miles of the seabed around its coast. In November 2008 the Commission awarded a 65 year licence to Alderney Renewable Energy (ARE) to develop tidal power in 50% of the island’s territorial waters. In the same year the Irish OpenHydro Group which has tidal power projects in the Bay of Fundy, Canada and the Pentland Firth took a 20% shareholding in ARE.

Alderney’s waters are widely recognized by academia and the renewable energy industry as being one of the most promising sites for large-scale tidal stream development within Europe. The predictability of tides, the low environmental impact, the prospect of competitive production costs and the strong European political desire for alternative energies make the prospects for tidal energy very real and there is awareness amongst the people and politicians of Alderney of the long term potential of harvesting energy from its natural resources.

(OpenHydro)  is working with ARE to install an array of seabed mounted Open-Centre Turbines which, when fully developed might mean the region could generate 3 GW of electricity, capable of powering more than 1 million homes. The functionality and survivability of equipment in an underwater environment demands simplicity and robustness. The Open-Centre Turbine meets these demands, with its slow-moving rotor and lubricant-free construction and operation minimizing risk to marine life. This turbine, with just one moving part and no seals, is a self-contained rotor with a solid state permanent magnet generator encapsulated within the outer rim, minimizing maintenance requirements.

As part of the project development, ARE has collected data using acoustic dopplers to measure the speed and direction of the tides every metre through the water column. This data will be processed to create a 3 dimensional model that will then be used to calculate accurately the gross power potential. The wave resource is also being calculated within the territorial sea to the west of Ortac rock to give ARE a gross power figure from Alderney’s wave resource.

ARE is managing a detailed survey programme to fully understand the nature of possible site environments and the tidal resources within them. Over the last couple of years combined hydrographical, geophysical and oceanographic surveys have been undertaken. Other significant work has been carried out including Environmental Impact Assessment studies with the collection of essential baseline data through surveying bird and other wildlife populations.

In 2009 ARE started a process to select suitable development partners with which to form strategic partnerships to take the project forward and this process is still ongoing. It has had discussions with many international utility and power generation companies, as well as banks, investment funds, and other large infrastructure companies. Tidal turbines continue to be tested around the world and connected to the grid for periods of time. The industry is waiting for the first commercial tidal farm to be proven. This could happen in another area such as the Pentland Firth in Scotland near where OpenHydro have already installed a tidal turbine at the European Marine Energy Centre in the Orkney Islands or here in Alderney.

When tidal power is developed in Alderney there will be far too much electricity for the island’s needs and it will be necessary to export it to market. ARE secured 285 MW capacity into the French Grid in November 2008 and it has since acquired capacity into the UK grid of 2000 MW. All of this has required meetings with grid operators and regulators such as OFGEM. The surveying of cable runs, negotiating of landing sites, studies into suitable locations for the necessary electricity substations, the commissioning of environmental studies, and applications for consents in two countries take time and money. Within the EU any producers of marine power are eligible for subsidies but these are not available to anyone producing in Alderney’s waters. Nevertheless, the island still has a unique opportunity to be at the forefront of an exciting new global industry.

Guernsey Electricity also has a strong interest in tidal energy and is a shareholder of Marine Current Turbines whose SeaGen system is currently operational in Strangford Lough, Northern Ireland. In 2010 the Government of Sark was due to sign an agreement with Ocean Electric Power (OEP) to explore the potential of tidal power. OEP is technology neutral and will purchase from companies with proven equipment to deploy in its projects.

Guernsey Housing Association has embarked on a new eco-friendly housing development but as yet nothing on Alderney.

Waste Minimisation & Recycling

The Impot is Alderney's facility for waste processing and disposal. From here “black bag” household waste collected by dustcarts from around the island is loaded into compacting containers for shipment to the Mont Cuet landfill site on Guernsey. Bulky household waste delivered by the public, typically furniture and furnishings, is also containerised and shipped to Guernsey. End of life vehicles, white goods and scrap of all grades is taken by Guernsey Recycling and Wastenot Guernsey deals with oils and batteries. Impot has different areas for all manner of other waste including: 

  • Cement Products
  • Builders Construction Waste
  • Builders Inert Waste - soil, stone, clean bricks & blocks
  • Asbestos
  • Timber
  • Green Waste
  • General scrap metal
  • Low grade scrap metal – Push bikes, Lawn Mowers etc.
  • Waste Electrical & Electronic Equipment – TV’s, Computers, Telephones, Printers.
  • White Goods – Cookers, fridges, freezers, washing machines, microwaves and dishwashers. Washing machines are broken up as there is a mass concrete lump inside them which is inert and therefore needs not be shipped off island for processing.
  • End of Life Vehicles /Car Batteries /Car Tyres
  • Cooking & Engine Oils
  • Paint
  • Household Clearance
  • Glass & Ceramics

Failure by the public to separate these materials and put them in the designated locations will result in a charge. This is currently set as a minimum £75.00. Green waste is a particular concern for Inpot. There is limited space and the build up of mixed green waste including grass cuttings, hedge and tree cuttings does not break down very quickly and is an acknowledged fire risk. Inpot, even if it were able to have a composting process, would be left with a by-product, of no value, to dispose of. Householders and gardening contractors have therefore been asked to make every effort to compost at source and can contact the Alderney Wildlife Trust for further advice and/or to purchase compost bins.

All glass, metal, paper/cardboard, plastic and textiles/clothes are recycled at The Glacis Recycling Centre who in turn sort and grade for other companies/charities before shipping to the UK. Robust Recycled Products in South Wales has a contract to take waste polystyrene from Guernsey and convert it into decking, garden and street furniture to ship back to the island.

In 2010 the issue of waste management throughout the Channel Islands became a controversial issue   when Guernsey agreed to pursue the option of exporting rubbish to Jersey after their States decided not to build a new incinerator. At the end of February members of the Guernsey States agreed overwhelmingly by 38 votes to 2 to reverse a decision they had agreed to seven month’s earlier and withdrew Suez Environment’s status as a preferred bidder and along with it a £93.5 million pound waste-to-energy facility. Jersey’s new incinerator taking shape at La Collette has been criticized for being too large for its own needs and will operate very inefficiently unless it utilizes waste from Guernsey. However, there will be details to be studied and problems solved, particularly around the export of ash back to Guernsey or elsewhere before any final decision by Jersey can be taken. Alderney is also now discussing shipping their household waste to Jersey.

Sustainable Alderney is an initiative of Alderney Marine Ltd founded in 2010. It has financially supported a number of projects including feasibility studies into local waste glass, paper and plastics processing as well as the potential for an anaerobic digester plant which contributes mains power and water to the island’s infrastructure and which removes a need to export biodegradable waste. It is also funding replacement of the current processing system at Longis Bay water treatment plant with reed beds.

Water Management & Security

The States of Alderney Water Board is responsible for the supply of potable water to some 1300 households and commercial users on the island. The water supply is generated from a number of streams and bore holes and is stored at the Battery Quarry and Corblets Quarry.  Operating as a commercial trading board, the profits of the Water Board are reinvested into the system in order to safeguard the island's water resources and the 5-strong team works around the clock to maintain the highest levels of quality. Stringent quality control is carried out daily and water samples are sent off island for analysis at regular intervals. Alderney currently has a water shortage problem.

Extensive Agriculture & Organic Food Production

In the 1800’s agriculture was the main industry and high numbers of over 500 head of cattle were recorded. Cows and bulls from Jersey and Guernsey would first be shipped to Alderney as the harbour was better suited to the transatlantic ships. The American buyers came to view and purchase the good ones for as much as 100 guineas and to own such a cow was of great importance to them. There is much mystery surrounding the Alderney cow that has now died out, with the Guernsey becoming dominant since the Second World War.

Before the war, the island’s agriculture had been based around the French Normandy strip farming where the land was split up between the islanders with common land for all to use and 3 blocks for each person, of good, medium and poor land. When land was passed to the next generation it was split up equally with a portion of each type given to each of the family members. This meant some plots became as small as one tenth of an acre; each farmer would tether his animals on his own strip and no fences were built, nor water supplies laid on to the fields, right up to the 1990s.

Of the 1400 inhabitants before the war, only 600 returned initially with the population building over the subsequent 25 years. For two years after the end of World War II, Alderney was operated as a communal farm. The support from Chase Organics in helping to establish a horticultural trade on the island is an interesting footnote. Five years of occupation saw the disturbance of much of the island’s prime habitats. Post-war farming practice saw the break up of community farming with the creation of several larger commercial operations and the abandonment of approximately 1000 acres of rough grazing land.

During the 1960s and 70s these commercial farming operations ceased and the island once again became reliant on smaller local farmers for dairy and arable production. However, by 1995 the government-run dairy was losing so much money it was decided to close it down, leaving the two remaining farmers with no market for their milk. Between them they took on the running of the dairy but this didn’t work out and finally, just one couple were left to run both their farm and the dairy. By then, the old dairy building was in such poor condition that the State wanted to condemn it as being unfit for use. In 2000 a couple, Clare and Mike Cox, moved from Cheshire having sold a high yielding herd of Holsteins, to take over the island herd. The government was supportive and provided a new house on Kiln Farm as well as changing one of the buildings to allow the processing business to be brought onto the farm as well. Clare takes responsibility for the processing that – in addition to whole and skim milks – now includes cream, yoghurt, ice cream and a wonderful butter. Alderney has a short visitor season from Easter until August and at that time every available litre of milk is needed for fresh product, but from September until April most of the production is into butter.

Mike does the farming on a very extensive basis, and a major fencing programme as well as provision of water tanks is bringing more of the land into hand. The grazing land is of long established pastures full of herbs and drought tolerant grasses as the summers tend to be dry and the grazing season is short. Mike has improved 60-70 acres used for a single crop of baled silage. The herd of 45 cows is based around those that were resident when the Coxes arrived and had been sired by various bulls imported from Guernsey for use by natural service. Mike is now able to do his own AI and has used Angus and Belgian Blue semen on some of the herd. He is developing a lucrative sideline in Quarters of Beef, which he has learned to butcher and sold locally.

In 2003 the Alderney Wildlife Trust established a grazing herd to help maintain the island’s species rich grasslands. The herd consists of a growing number of Guernsey cattle that are moved periodically round the island's reserves and other key areas. Their grazing regime positively promotes the growth of wild flowers and a diverse range of insects and birds.


A number of scheduled services enable you to easily reach Alderney. Aurigny Air Services fly direct from Southampton and Guernsey and Blue Islands fly direct from Guernsey. Both airlines have flights from Jersey to Alderney via Guernsey and also offer charter flights. You can also fly to Alderney from most major British and international airports, via Guernsey, which is only a 15-minute flight away from Alderney onboard one of the famous Trislanders or Islanders.

The Victor Hugo high speed passenger ferry operated by Manche Iles Express has scheduled sailings from Dielette (near Cherbourg) and St. Peter Port (Guernsey) from April to September. Lady Maris II with room for 12 passengers goes to and from Cherbourg every Wednesday and Saturday, and every Thursday to and from Guernsey, Sark and Herm.

The Alderney railway is the only one remaining in the Channel Islands, doing scheduled services to the lighthouse during the summer and special occasions such as Easter and Christmas.

Sustainable Tourism & Niche Marketing

Over the last seventy years there have been major changes in the way Alderney has been marketed for tourism. The 1940s and 50s saw an increase in tourism, with the island becoming a favourite family holiday destination. It also started to become popular with botanists and ornithologists who recognized Alderney had some unique habitats and species. During the 1960s and 70s, while the family holiday trade was still strong, package holidays began to affect Alderney’s tourism. The island also became an attractive second-home location and the population rose. In the 1980s, family tourism began to die out and the second home market continued to increase. Between 1990 and 2005, niche tourism centered round the island’s natural history and began to replace the family holiday.

Perhaps Alderney’s greatest attribute is its safety and quality of life. Being a small island with a population of only 2,400, crime is rarely known and the whole atmosphere is relaxed and friendly. There is a strong sense of community throughout the island with the people being extremely hospitable and sociable. Notable events through the year include Alderney Week and carnival, a Seafood Festival, Alderney air races, the Wildlife Festival, golf championship, Alderney half marathon, Alderney Angling festival and numerous sailing competitions. In 2010 the artist Andy Goldsworthy started work on the Alderney Stones project sculpting 12 boulder-like forms from local materials.

There is a wide selection of shops, restaurants and bars, with local seafood a culinary speciality. A brand new four star hotel has just opened with another due to open in near future. The island also boasts an active tennis club and a challenging 9-hole golf course renowned for its breathtaking views in all directions. The fishing and boating is superb and in addition numerous sports and social clubs thrive.

The Alderney Tourist Board has an excellent website with online brochure that does a fine job marketing and promoting all the above attributes under the banner ‘small is beautiful’. The Alderney Records Centre provides a walking guide, map and various other identification guides that can be downloaded from its website.

The Alderney Society & Museum is very active with some 600 members undertaking research, working on projects like on-going excavation and restoration of an old watermill, producing an annual bulletin and other publications. The museum first opened in 1966, transferred to the old school building in St. Anne’s in 1970 and its collections largely consist of objects that reveal a small community surviving over the centuries on subsistence agriculture, fishing and trading.

Biodiversity & Protected Areas

The Alderney Wildlife Trust is part of the influential UK-wide partnership of 47 Wildlife Trusts. Working in the absence of British and European wildlife protection laws the Trust is the sole body caring for the island's environment. The Trust evolved from the island's conservation volunteer organisation in 2002 to help manage and protect Alderney's diverse habitats from the threat of new development and large scale agricultural abandonment. Since then the Trust has expanded rapidly, with a growing number of dedicated members and volunteers both on and off island. This membership directly elects their governing committee whose current President, Brian Bonnard, has a vast knowledge about the flora, wildlife and history of the island which can be found on his own website. The Trust's role within Alderney has also grown, with activities now ranging from environmental consultancy and implementing sustainable projects, to running surveys and species counts as well as creating new wildlife havens.

For a small island, Alderney has a remarkable range of terrestrial and marine habitats, which supports an impressive number of flora and fauna. There are many species of plants that are rare or not found on mainland Britain. These include plants such as the Alderney Sea-lavender, Limonium normannicum and the Alderney Geranium, Geranium sub-molle, which are endemic to the island. Until about 1977, Alderney was the last known site of the Purple Spurge, Euphorbia peplis, which is now classified as 'extinct in the British Isles'. Greater Broomrape, Orobanche rapum-geniste, Yarrow Broomrape, Orobanche purpurea, the Spotted Rock-rose, Tuberaria guttata and Sand Crocus, Romulea columnae, are present in some quantity, although the Small Restharrow, Ononis reclinata is now reduced to a single colony. Rarities such as these attract many visitors with an interest in wildflowers.

Alderney has few mammal species, but these few are distinctive, and are often seen because of the lack of predators. There are plenty of bats (three types of pipistrelle recorded to date), mice and rabbits; the little-known greater white-toothed shrew is common, but is more often heard than seen, while the famous blonde hedgehogs are frequently observed in the evening, foraging for food even in the side-streets of St Anne. Alderney’s only reptile, the slow worm, can sometimes be seen basking in the grassy clearings on the edge of the coastal woodlands.

Seabirds are particularly important to Alderney and are a key aspect of the island’s designated Ramsar Site status. Several thousand gannets can be seen on the two offshore islets of Les Etacs and Ortac, and there are important colonies of puffins and storm petrels nesting on the small island of Burhou. The puffin colony can be watched live during the early summer season on the new PuffinCam.

With France only seven miles away, Alderney is famous as a transit point for birds migrating to and from the Continent, with large flocks of finches and warblers passing through in spring and autumn, and an impressive range of waders. The bird hides at Mannez and Longis are excellently places to watch nesting wildfowl in summer as well as winter visitors. Many raptors pass through on migration, but there are also resident populations of buzzard, kestrel, peregrine falcon, barn and long-eared owl. Breeding birds of regional conservation importance include the Dartford warbler, found in the gorse heath land.

The unspoilt habitats and the sparing use of pesticides make Alderney an insect paradise. Butterflies can often be seen in the sort of numbers known in UK in the 1950s, and the bird hides are a fine place to watch the island’s remarkable range of dragonflies. The Trust is slowly cataloguing beetles, bees, flies and other invertebrates. As with the birds, Alderney’s huge insect population owes much to the proximity of France, and the island is home to numerous species, especially moths, that are unknown in UK, along with many more that appear in southern England only as rare migrants. 

Alderney’s marine species include a variety of seaweeds, sea anemones, crustaceans and starfish. Dolphins and seals are frequently spotted round the island throughout the year due to numerous prey species including bass, red mullet and wrasse. Molluscs, including the regionally important green ormer, can be found hiding under rocks and seaweeds as well as winkles and topshells.  

The Alderney Records Centre (ARC) collects, manages and makes available detailed information on the biological, ecological, geological and historical aspects of the island and its waters. ARC is a subsidiary of both the Alderney Society and the Alderney Wildlife Trust. It holds all data received from public recorders, expert recorders and groups in a secure system which is archived within the Alderney Museums stores after being validated appropriately following predefined procedures and guidelines.

Alderney has designated conservation reserve areas that the Trust helps to protect through ecological management and biological research. Each reserve requires different conservation techniques due to its distinctive ecological and geological natures. There are two main nature reserve areas known as the Longis and Vau du Saou as well as a designated Ramsar site.

Longis was designated under a memorandum of understanding in 2003 between the Trust, the States of Alderney and local land owners. It is the largest terrestrial reserve within Alderney, covering approximately 105 hectares. The reserve contains 13 distinct habitats, including marine, intertidal, coastal heathland, grassland, scrub woodland and freshwater ponds, both natural and man-made. The coastal grasslands have a great diversity of plant species, with rarities such as small hare’s-ear, small restharrow, scrambled egg lichen, autumn lady's tresses, bastard toadflax and green winged orchids to be found. The marine and freshwater wetlands within the reserve provide an important site for migratory birds with other habitats also hosting many of the island’s best mammal habitats. There are also numerous insect species, nearly 100 of national importance, many of which have not yet occurred in the UK.

The Essex Farm Field Centre located on the edge of Longis is a research and practical nature conservation facility established and managed by the Trust. The centre is home to the Trust’s conservation volunteers, their tools and equipment and has to be self-supporting as there are no outside funding sources. It is pivotal to the Trust’s ongoing work since the core of the Trust’s success is their staff work placement and research programmes. These depend on the simple accommodation and communal facilities provided by Essex Farm, a converted German storage building. 

Val du Saou was established by a memorandum of understanding between the Trust, the States of Alderney and two private land owners in 2004. The reserve covers an area of 7 hectares consisting of coastal cliff top woodland valley habitats. A variety of migratory birds including birds of prey are often spotted within the reserve as well as the island's only reptile the slow worm. Many important insect species are found here also. The reserve also holds host to the Trust's Countryside Interpretation Centre (the 'Wildlife Bunker'), which is located on its eastern edge, within the two-metre-thick walls of a World War Two German bunker. This Bunker contains information and displays on the island's military and wildlife history.

Alderney's Ramsar (Convention on the Protection of Internationally Important Wetlands) site was the first to be designated in the Bailiwick of Guernsey. The site contains a mixture of habitats ranging from coastal grassland, shingle shorelines, rocky intertidal to sub-tidal kelp forests. To maintain the designation the Trust undertakes a series of ecological studies including: puffin research and management; storm petrel breeding and establishing new nesting sites; gannet, shag, cormorant, tern and ringed plover census and breeding; visitor management and awareness.

Conserving Alderney's natural environment requires a number of ongoing practical conservation techniques, ranging from bracken cutting and tree planting to brown tailed moth tent removal and willow weaving. The Trust carries out a variety of conservation practices on a daily basis to promote and protect the island's wildlife.

Integrated Development Planning

Over the millennia, Alderney has been subjected to long uneventful periods punctuated by very short ones of frantic activity such as the loss of Normandy in 1204, the Hundred Years War, the Reformation, the Armada and the French religious wars, the English Civil War, the Napoleonic and French Revolutionary Wars, the building of the Victorian harbour and forts and the First & Second World Wars. During the 18th century, privateering and smuggling brought a period of sudden and spectacular prosperity. Streets were created and paved, and new houses were built. The 20th century saw a lot of change in Alderney, from the building of the airport in the late 1930s to the death of the last speakers of the island’s language (Auregnais, a dialect of Norman language). The economy has gone from depending on agriculture to earning money from the tourism and finance industries. E-commerce has become increasingly important, and the island hosts the domain name registry for both Bailiwicks and over a dozen gambling website operators. Due to these upheavals and large immigration, the island has been more or less completely Anglicised.

The Alderney Land Use Plan  was updated in November 2010. On neighbouring Guernsey the case of developing sustainability indicators has been documented and the Sustainable Guernsey monitoring report is produced annually to assess the performance of the States Strategic Plan.

Climate Change Mitigation & Adaptation Measures

The Guernsey Climate Action Network run the Sustainable Guernsey blog and was behind the initiative to publish Planet Guernsey, a handbook detailing the evidence and impacts of climate change in Guernsey, the consequences and opportunities for action. This excellent publication compiled and edited by Dr Andrew Casebow, Guernsey States Agriculture and Environment Adviser, puts this massive global issue into a local context.