Figure 36. Town plan of St. Anne & Newtown, 1961
Figure 37. St. Anne from Belle Vue Hotel c. 1910
The town gradually grew up round the "nucleated village" based on Le Bourgage and Les Venelles. The ancient church was almost certainly built on the site of a pagan holy place, the site today of the clock tower, (all that remains of the former Parish Church of Ste. Marie or Notre Dame (Our Lady), which became known as St. Ann in the late 18th century when a side chapel was added to the church) and the old cemetery. This was an elevated mound above a stream, which formerly ran through the area later formed by Marais Square and Royal Connaught Square, down through the Island Hall to La Vallée and the sea. It was also used as the open air meeting place of the island courts until the first courthouse was built in the 18th century and the various public gatherings to settle the dates of planting, harvest and vraic gathering were held in Le Huret just beside and important announcements (e.g. the proclamation of the end of the Great War in 1918) were made here, right into the 1920s.
The site was well watered and the stream still supplied public washing facilities in a Lavoiret at the bottom of Little Street, with public pumps in both Marais and Connaught Squares and the huge cattle trough in Marais Square, still in use long after the area had been drained and paved, the stream put into a culvert and houses built around (and apparently over) it. After very heavy rain the basement of the Island Hall still floods as a result. The pumps were still in regular use until the early 1950s and their positions can still be detected from the layout of the cobbles in each square. The cattle trough was kept filled and their manure removed from the cobbles daily, by a man paid to look after it, at least until the island was evacuated in 1940. At one time in the early 19th century, La Petite Rue (Little Street) became known as "Cowpat Lane" from the custom of the inhabitants to use the cowpats, plastered to the walls of their houses in the summer to dry, as a winter fuel known as 'buzzets'.
The town area, shown on the map opposite, still contains a number of open sites, some of which have unusual native or naturalised plants in them, or at least plants, perhaps common in the UK, which are rare in Alderney.
Most obvious are the two churchyards. The old site, referred to above ceased to be used, except for later burials of a few of the older families in their family tombs, when the present parish church was opened in 1850 and the old one later demolished except for the clock tower. There are a few botanically interesting items in this site.
Just inside the gates at the bottom of High Street is a rare tree, from its appearance possibly planted just after the last war. With the very long-winded name of Pear-fruited Cockspur-thorn Crataegus pedicillata, flowers & leaves (click link), fruit (click link). It appears to have been grafted just above ground level onto the stock of an ordinary Hawthorn, C. monogyna. The main tree has ovate toothed, plum-like leaves and much larger flowers and fruits than the common Hawthorn (click link and note the difference in the leaves). Careful examination when the tree is in full leaf, reveals a ring of small branches, an inch or two above the soil, just below the graft bearing the ordinary, very familiar, deeply lobed leaves of the common variety. The graft appears to have been made and the main stock then removed, leaving the present trunk that of the grafted plant. Further into the churchyard, the larger tree in the middle again seems to be a grafted one. The present tree is almost entirely that of the Wild Cherry or Gean, Prunus avium, probably the only one in the island, and apparently the result of planting an ornamental flowering cherry grafted onto the wild stock, the grafted part having later died and the stock sprouted several new stems. I found two young, probably self sown, Cabbage Palms at the base of one of the tombs about ten years ago. These are now some 4m high, trunks 25cm across and branched. As the grass is frequently mown or strimmed there seems little else of particular interest.
In the Vicarage front garden on the other side of the wall an enormous Bay tree Laurus nobilis thrives. A large patch of Italian Arum Arum italicum subsp. italicum, with large white-veined leaves, (click link), also gives a grand show of its spikes of orange berries in the autumn. Parasitic on the Ivy in the front garden is a considerable colony of Ivy Broomrape Orobanche hederae, (click link), extremely common in Guernsey on most Ivy-covered banks, but in Alderney apparently confined to areas in close proximity to the line of the former stream which crossed Connaught square and went down La Vallée to the sea.
Just across the road in the front garden of the Island Hall is a very large Copper Beech and in the rear garden a large Walnut tree and another small colony of the Ivy Broomrape is to be found. This last reappears on the banks either side of the road shortly after the stream emerges in La Vallée below the Valley Gardens and at the bottom of this road just by the junction with Butes Lane. It has not been recorded elsewhere in the island, despite the vast amounts of Ivy to be found.
The Terrace gardens, at one time part of the le Mesurier estate round "Government House", now the Island Hall, was given to the island more than a century ago as a public park. The gate was, until 1940 locked each evening and, in a photo taken before the Great War had a lovely flight of stone steps at the top end, leading from the lower to the upper walk, (click link). This area has long been a haven for the Italian Arum, with both white-veined and plain green (subsp. neglectum) forms in abundance. It is also graced in the early spring and summer with large quantities of the graceful Cow Parsley Anthriscus sylvestris flowering (click link), known in some parts as either 'Queen Anne's Lace's or 'Hedge Parsley'. Surprisingly, this plant, abundant both here and in Britain generally, is rare in both Guernsey and Jersey. The true Hedge Parsley Torilis japonica is not frequent here.
Also present in these gardens was, until the Dutch Elm disease killed them about 15-20 years ago, was a fine line of Elm trees, Ulmus minor subsp. sarniensis. When these were eventually felled about 1983, the author obtained a cross section of the trunk of the largest. Planed, polished and placed on view in the Museum, the rings show that the tree was probably planted in 1805, the date of the Battle of Trafalgar. Suckers from these trees still regenerate, but usually succumb to the disease after 5-10 years. A small, but spreading patch of Summer Snowflake Leucojum aestivum (click link), despite its name flowering as early as February is also present, the only place in the island where it grows 'in the wild'.
Further down La Vallée, planted many years ago, one in a garden and the other in a wood are the earliest spring-flowering trees in the island, two Cherry Plums Prunus cerasifera. Their blossoms often appear in the first week of February or even late January each year and are usually in full flower by the end of the month. Ripe fruit is less commonly seen, (click link, right hand photo). The stream flows in a channel at the side of the road or just inside the gardens, under a complete archway of overhanging well grown Sycamores Acer pseudoplatanus and Hawthorns, with the elegant Pendulous Sedge Carex pendula (click link above, left hand photo), in clumps along its sides and in a few places seeded well away from the stream on banks and in lawns. About half way down the hill the stream drops away to the bottom of Le Val Vert Courtil amongst a considerable number of Sycamores and alongside the stream Alders Alnus glutiosa all probably planted since the last war. Just below this again, the grass verges on the western side of the stream just outside Picaterre Farm are the home of another sedge, this time the inconspicuous Grey Sedge Carex divulsa subsp. divulsa. The stream here goes under the road into Section 2, already discussed.
Returning now to the Parish churchyard, we find in the spring by far the largest concentration of Primroses Primula vulgaris (rare elsewhere in Alderney), Common Dog-violets Viola riviniana and Celandines Ranunculus ficaria anywhere in the island. The sexton has been careful over many years to allow these to flower and seed before mowing them off. Most of the trees have been planted and include a couple of Hornbeam Carpinus betulus and a number of Sweet Chestnut, Castanea sativa. Naturalised from flowers and
placed on graves at various times, two persistent plants are Geranium endressii x G. oxonianum, a medium sized perennial Geranium running riot over several graves, and Kraus's Clubmoss Selaginella kraussiana (click link), one of our most primitive plants. First found by the author in 1997 growing in a fissure well up on one of the old stone boundary walls, two plants of Wild Strawberry, Fragaria vesca were in both flower and ripe fruit. Not previously recorded in the island, their origin remains a mystery. A fine collection of Bryophytes may be found on the tombstones and old walls in both cemeteries. These have been catalogued by two experts in recent years, one of their publications and a series of dried specimens will be found in the Museum. The lists are available in my own "Wild Flowers of Alderney", at present only available on CD-Rom.
The largest public open space directly connected with the town is the Butes. The name originating from its use as the archery practice area for the Alderney Militia. The building at the SW corner of this area was built in the 18th century, possibly on the site of a much older Watchhouse, as a barracks and arsenal, later became a military hospital before Fort Essex was built in the 1850s and now houses the States Works Department. The Cricket Club building on the N side is a recent addition. The rough area shown on the map on p.40 slopes steeply down towards the harbour. Various gun batteries and quarries have been formed here over the past two centuries and botanically it supports, amongst many common plants, the island's only colony of Alexanders Smyrnium olusatrum (click link), abundant in the other Channel Islands and a small patch of Tassel Hyacinth Muscari comosum (click link), first recorded in 1971 and most likely a garden escape.
The old walls in town support a variety of interesting plants. In several places very small colonies of Rusty-back Fern Ceterach officinarum (click link), survive. These little ferns need lime and will only survive on old mortared walls. If the walls are repointed with cement, they die. In very dry weather their fronds roll inwards, leaving an outer covering of brown scales exposed, to prevent water loss. Within an hour or so of rain falling they open out again. Maidenhair Spleenwort Asplenium trichomanes (click link), Black Spleenwort A. adiantum nigrum, Wall-rue A. ruta-muraria, Western Polypody Polypodium interjectum, and (usually small specimens of) Hart's-tongue Fern Phyllitis scolopendrium, are all frequent. Of the flowering plants, two species of wall campanula, the Adria and Trailing Bellflowers Campanula portenschlagiana and C. poscharskyana (click link), respectively, can be seen in several places and the wall of the Alderney Pottery has an unusual colony of the common, sandy grassland plant, Lady's Bedstraw Galium verum (click link), well established in crevices in its walls.
To the east of Le Val and La Route de Braye lies a large area of comparatively undeveloped land, scheduled as part of the building area. The Val Reuters, running from just above the former Inchalla Hotel at the top of Le Val, in a northerly direction behind the houses at Auderville, slopes steeply down towards the harbour. It is well watered from springs forming a stream for part of its length, with one of the old abreuvoirs publiques (cattle troughs) about two-thirds way down. A number of moisture loving plants such as; Field Horsetail Equisetum arvense, Brookweed Samolus valerandi, Herb Bennett Geum urbanum, Enchanter's-nightshade Circea lutetiana (click link, Geum LH photo, Ench n-s RH photo) and various ferns, are to be found along the length of the narrow, shady path, in addition to the more common hedgerow species and grasses.
At the lower end of this valley the stream flows in a channel and some steps take us down into Fontaine David, an unmade road coming from part way down Braye Hill to this point and then looping back on a parallel track almost to Braye Road again, but well below it, before turning sharply north to emerge by the Harbour Lights Hotel, built on the site of the former island Gasworks, into Newtown Road. The hillsides either side of the steps contain entrances to two very substantial German tunnel complexes cut through the rock. An interesting fungal flora has developed on the fallen timber roof supports within these, in almost total darkness in some places. BEWARE, sections of the roof have fallen, partially blocking the tunnels, some of the lower sections are partly filled with water and no-one should enter alone, nor without proper headgear and good torches.
The steep hillside above the tunnel on the North side of the roadway supports a fair sized (for Alderney) Ash Fraxinus excelsior, wood and there are a couple of large specimens lower down at the roadside as well as what are probably the biggest Poplars, probably the hybrid Populus canadensis (click link, left hand photo), in the island. After wandering under the hill for several hundred metres, with several short side branches, the tunnel emerges again along this stretch. The hedges and scrub there also contain a number of different Willow Salix spp. varieties and a few straggly Wild Plum Prunus domestica trees. Among the vegetation at the foot of the hedges, occasional groups of Hairy Garlic Allium subhirsutum (click Poplar link above, RH photo), may be noticed, with delicate heads of about a dozen white star-like flowers between March and June depending on the season. The stream continues alongside the lower part of the track and near the bottom is one of the old stone arched well-heads. The water from this valley supplies part of the island domestic supply and the main pumping station is situated opposite its junction with Newtown Road. Some interesting small ferns of the species already mentioned on town walls are to be found on the wall of the Harbour Lights. Fresh water from this stream eventually seeps onto Braye beach, several hundred yards away, but more or less opposite this point and in very wet weather the road often floods here.
The remaining open space in this section is the mainly agricultural land at the bottom right hand corner of the map on page 38, known as La Corvée. The name derives from the ancient custom of the same name which implied that the tenants of the land had an obligation of service to the freeholder (Crown, Church or Governor) in so many day's labour each year spent in upkeep of the roads. This tithe continued in Sark until about 1950.
A few of the less common grasses and other plants have been recorded in this part of the island. These include Narrow-leaved Meadow-grass Poa angustifolia first recorded in 1990; good stands of Musk Thistle Carduus nutans; Greater Knapweed Centaurea scabiosa; and Dark Mullein Verbascum nigrum, are also found here. [This last is also found, together with Great Mullein V. thapsus, in some quantity on Verdun Farm on the other side of the Longis Road].
Fig. 38, Musk Thistle & Greater Knapweed
Fig. 39, Great Mullein & Dark Mullein