RETURN TO ALDERNEY…

On Friday, accompanied by my colleague Carolyn, I caught the noisy Trislander to the Channel Islands’ most northerly inhabited island, Alderney. Although part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey, Alderney is in many ways an island apart from a Guernsey perspective. Many and possibly most Guerns have never even visited their northern cousins because it costs roughly the same for the 15 minute flight as to fly to the UK. There are occasional ferry services but they are not much cheaper. It’s a great pity because Alderney has much to offer- beautiful scenery and a real community feel, admittedly centred around pub life! This was my eight visit to the island since arriving in the Channel Islands in 2005 but I’m ashamed to admit I hadn’t been back for around four years. I was there to host my Island FM show from Alderney Week and previous visits were mainly to compere Great Parish Quiz nights at the Moorings (now Rea’s Bistro) although I was once stranded for the night on the way back from a day at the Lessay Fair in Normandy when the Manche Iles Express vessel the Victor Hugo drifted onto the rocks in Braye Harbour! It was no hardship as I was warmly welcomed to former Alderney States member Bill Walden’s comfortable B & B. It was great to be back and catch up with familiar faces such as Ilona Soane-Sands (now BEM!) as well as Di and ‘don’t mention the war’ Pete at the Marais. It was the first time I’d been to Alderney Week when the population of the island swells. The place was buzzing but several people told me most of the time it is very quiet. The island has been suffering from de-population since I was last there losing around 500 full time residents. The cost of living is high especially food, petrol and electricity although property is relatively cheap compared to Guernsey and there are no restrictions on who can live there although you do usually need an Employment Permit. I noticed several shops and pubs had closed since my last visit. I ran into Guernsey’s legendary Deputy John Gollop whose mother Vera lives in the island. He told me he thought that although the population numbers had been falling, he believed the numbers were underestimated especially at certain times of the year when visitors and those with second homes were in the island. He also believed the tax advantages need to be better sold to potential new residents in the UK as the Isles of Scilly has stolen a march on the island despite those advantages. Like Sark, the island has it’s own government the States of Alderney. Unlike Sark, many public services have been transferred to Guernsey meaning two Alderney Representatives sit in the States of Guernsey. Many islanders were actually born in the Princess Elizabeth Hospital in Guernsey and also come here for their secondary education but despite that are, wrongly in my view, denied residency rights in Guernsey. Alderney was almost entirely evacuated during the WWII and many slave workers are known to have died in the Nazi camps. The true extent of the horrors will probably never be known. Islanders returned much later than in the other islands. Homecoming Day (a recent innovation) is celebrated on the 15th December whereas Guernsey and Jersey’s Liberation Day is on the 9th May and Sark’s on the 10th. Alderney’s wildlife is stunning and puffins are a feature of nearby Burhou. The Alderney Wildlife Trust does a fantastic job caring for the natural environment and it’s a great place to walk. The island was once described to me as a large village surrounded by the sea and that’s a pretty good description.  Alderney has a thriving e-gaming industry, although the servers themselves are in Guernsey and potentially the island could prosper once tidal energy can be harnessed as the Race between the Island and the Cotentin peninsular in France has a very powerful tidal flow. Media-wise Alderney has two publications the Alderney Journal and the Alderney Press and the island’s community radio station Quay FM has recently been awarded a full-time licence and is set to begin broadcasting in the next year. We at Island FM used to broadcast across Alderney Week with Carl Ward, Cazza and Mike Campbell and, although this fell away due to budgetary constraints, we now plan to return more frequently. To my mind affordable transport it absolutely key to a brighter future for this lovely and unique island. Some Guernsey Deputies should also try harder to understand the challenges facing the island. Alderney deserves to be better known to Channel Islanders and tourists alike.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s