This region includes Saye, Arch, Corblets and most of Longis, bays.
Let us first deal with the beach areas in the northern part and the plants and animals found on the beaches generally, leaving Longis Bay in the south to the end;
Almost circular with a sandy bottom and a relatively narrow, rock guarded entrance, this is Alderney's favourite swimming beach. Backed by dunes which shelter the campsite behind them, it is surrounded by German fortifications, especially on the western headland, Bibette Head, which guards the entrance to the harbour on its other side. On the opposite side of the entrance to the bay, Château à L'Etoc was built near what had been the intended start of the eastern arm of the Breakwater and the archway carrying the road to the fort here and giving access from the campsite to the beaches of Arch and Corblets bays, was built to carry a branch of the mineral railway for the stone to build this arm and the fort. Saye farmhouse was built about 1850, as the Engineer's HQ for this part of the harbour works, but those never got much beyond the planning stage and were abandoned before the main arm was finished.
Disturbance by man has thus been considerable over the centuries. When the foundations for the battery, which preceded Château à L'Etoc by half a century or more, were being excavated small stone burial 'cists' (probably Bronze or Iron Age), were found and destroyed, together with their burial urns containing burnt bones and ashes. More were discovered and destroyed, but their positions recorded (too late) by Henry Le Mesurier and the Lukis family about 1853, when the Victorian fort construction was in progress. The Germans altered and extended the defences on both headlands again during the 1940s.
............................................................. Figure 46. Saye Bay & Château à L'Etoc....
Before covering any further land areas, we will look at some of the seashore and sub-littoral zone fauna.
The commonly found segmented worms, several of them dug for on some of these sandy beaches and used as bait, are Lugworm, (photo p. 12), up to 20cm., browny-green with reddish gills on the hind 2/3rds, Ragworm Nereis diversicolor, up to 12cm., green, pink and yellow and Paddleworm Phyllodoce paretti, 15-30cm, mauve and yellow-green. Catworms Nephthys hombergii, grey to brown up to about 25cm. long are also found in the same areas
The Sand Mason Lanice conchilega is up to 30cm long and covers itself with a single layer of sand grains. Much of it remains buried with only the several tentacles above the sand level. These often remain above the sand on the middle shore at low water and show as clusters of sandy threads. The Fan or Peacock Worm Sabella penicillus, grows up to 25cm and is also found on the middle shore. It has a membraneous, free-standing tube, the ring of gills around the top forming a retractable crown. Both are common and will be found in most sandy bays.
The Common or Sand Shrimp Gammarus locusta, buries itself in the sand and can assume a similar colour to the particular substrate, making it difficult to find. If exposed in daylight it quickly covers itself by sweeping out a depression with its legs and then fanning the sand back over its body. It can be collected by pushing a shrimp net along the surface of the sand in shallow water. Sand-hoppers are common. Talitrus saltator, about 1.5cm long with a black line down its back, is a familiar sight on the upper shore among seaweed litter on the strand line. It can jump about 20cm. The larger 2cm. Orchestia gammarella with a distinctive lobster like claw on its 3rd pair of legs, is common amongst rocks and stones and seaweed somewhat lower down to the middle shore.
Several greeny-grey Sea Slaters are found at different levels on the middle to upper shore. Of these, Ligia oceanica, is very common amongst rocks on the upper shore above HWM, but, unlike the others, is only capable of surviving short periods of immersion. Hiding in crevices and cracks and under stones during the day and fast running if disturbed, it emerges in large numbers at night to feed on brown seaweeds. Resembling a large Woodlouse about 1cm. long it has two 'tails' each with two bristles.
Bivalves are not common on Alderney shores. Very small Scallops, Portuguese Oysters Crassostrea angulata, and Dog Cockles are found but rarely. Common Mussels are also not frequent. They are occasionally found on rocks in Clonque, Longis, Platte Saline and Corblets Bays, and also on the large driftwood timbers which sometimes come ashore, supporting huge colonies of Goose Barnacles. A 6-7m floating pine tree trunk was towed into Braye harbour from The Race in March 2000 by a local boat, and pulled from the water as it was a hazard to shipping. As can be seen from the photo it bore literally thousands of this mollusc, from smaller than a pea in size, to fully adult up to 30 cm. including the foot. I am told that these fetch a good price in Spain where the foot is considered a culinary delicacy. (See also photo on p. 12 from a sleeper washed up at Platte Saline in 1997).
...Figure 47. Goose Barnacles on a log......... A few Edible Oysters, Ostrea edulis or, (more frequently), the Portuguese Oyster, may be found in Longis Bay, survivors of an Oyster-farming enterprise there in the 1960-70's, but usually only as empty shells.
The Lesser Weever, (beware !, it buries itself in the sand and, if trodden on can inflict painful, poisonous wounds from the spines on its gill covers and first dorsal fin). Small (12cm.), golden brown with many darker spots in rows along their length, these are sometimes reported from the sandy bays, especially Corblets.
Young Pollack are frequent in pools and many large specimens are caught in nets across Longis Bay just above low water, or with rod and line, all round the coasts. Up to 1.2m long these can weigh up to 3 kg.
A list of the fish usually caught by both Shore fishers and local inshore boats will be found in Part 3 of this work. Alderney holds an annual fishing competition and also number of British records for the heaviest fish caught of several species.
Waders in small numbers can be seen from time to time, swimming or feeding along the strand line, water's edge, or on exposed rocks, in all the bays. The variety of passage immigrants is quite wide over a year, but individual species numbers are rarely more than a dozen or two. The complete bird list will be found in Part 3 of this book. The principal resident species are a variety of Gulls, Terns, Oyster Catchers and, over the last five or six years, Little Egrets, up to six at one time, with two or three present all the year round.
Facing East, the beach here can be approached through the tunnel from the campsite, or down a rough path from the road, about 4-5m. above.
At low tide it is joined directly to Corblets beach which faces north. Backed at the top of the beach by blue-grey diorite shingle.
The small grassy triangle across the road, just below the German bunker, held a colony of Bee Orchids Orchis apifera, until a few years ago, when they finally disappeared, leaving our only remaining colony in the much larger triangle of grass across the road just above the campsite. These were not seen for several years, from 1983 to 1991, but a group of 7 plants was found there in 1992 and, with variable numbers between 1 and 5 or 6 have reappeared each year since.
. Figure 48. Arch Bay................................
A broad expanse of sand which, when the wind is right, provides good, if not very high, surf. Bounded either side by rock outcrops and pools and backed by more of the blue-grey shingle, with some more diorite outcrops exposed in the middle of the beach as the tide falls. This area is suffused at low tide by a trickle of fresh water, (seen in the centre of the photograph), from a spring or possibly from Corblets Quarry, now the island's back-up reservoir, about 50m,,,. away across the road, the bottom of which is below sea level.
Access to this part of the beach can be made either by steps at the western end, or the remains of an old vraic road at the eastern end.
The headland and the outcrop of rocks in front of the fort on the photograph are composed of the hard red Alderney sandstone, inclined at about 45º towards the NW and here with an obvious fault line running SW-NE across the outcrop at
................................ Figure 49. Corblets Bay & Fort.........................
right angles to the stratification. This overlies the harder rocks beneath, from here, all the way along the E and SE coasts as far as Bluestone Bay.
The low cliff in this bay has been the subject in the last 10-15 years of considerable erosion which badly threatened the road. in the 1990s a scheme to armour the remaining cliff face was carried out by the States using layers of special plastic 'netting', each covered in turn with about a metre of soil and the seaward face lined with sandbags originally filled with a fairly dry concrete mix, now forming a block wall. Large stones and shingle were piled at the bottom of the wall thus formed, to protect the foundations and the land above was finally made up to the road level, to form a grassy area with seats and a car parking area, with spoil from the large bank of it left by the Victorians at the edge of the quarry and the road diverted several yards inland and resurfaced. This seems to have been successful and has survived a number of storms from the dangerous N-NE direction.
The bare areas where the quarry spoil was removed and relocated soon became colonised with a variety of plants in succession. First to appear was Charlock, followed by rosettes of Buck's-horn Plantain Plantago coronopus, and quantities of Scarlet Pimpernel Anagallis arvensis, Sea Mayweed Tripleurospermum maritimum, Kidney Vetch (or Lady's-fingers) Anthyllis vulneraria, a few Docks, mainly Broad-leaved Rumex obtusifolius, Campions, mainly Pink Silene x hampeana, with small numbers of Sea Campion S. uniflora and Sea Radish Raphanus raphanistrum subsp. maritimus. A variety of Clovers appeared in the grassy area, some no doubt come with the grass seed used. The nearby edge of the quarry rim is home to two tiny subspecies of Soft Brome grasses, Bromus hordeaceus subsp. feronii and subsp. thominei, two tiny Forget-me-nots, Early, Myosotis ramosissima, and Changing, M. discolor, and a few plants of these spread into the bare soil. Even 10 years later there are still bare patches of compacted spoil on the quarry side of the road and traffic using the stony parking area has kept colonisation confined mainly to the edges.
In these two bays a number of small, mainly shallow, pools form as the tide falls, these and the emergent rocks, each have their colonies of various common seaweeds as well as crustaceans, molluscs and other invertebrates. As noted on pp. 16/17, 19, Dog Whelks are rarely found in Alderney and, in this bay in our 1992/3 survey only five were found. The various barnacles clothing the emergent rocks as the tide falls are mainly the Common and Acorn Barnacles, but include the Darwin Barnacle on the lowest part of some of the middle shore rocks. Rough Periwinkles seem to be pretty scarce on the rocks in the splash zone in this area.
Moving further East, the sandstone headland on which Fort Corblets stands has an interesting flora, at least part of it due to plants introduced by man but now well naturalised. Patches of Hottentot or Kaffir Fig clothe the tops on the low cliffs, Sea Spleenwort Asplenium marinum, native but not particularly common on the island, can be found in crevices on the rocky outcrops on which the fort was built, one of our rare colonies of Common Scurvy-grass (photo fig 5 p. 4) can be found here, several colour varieties of the alien Rosy Dew-plant Lampranthus roseus cover large areas of the rock round the higher walls of the fort and, in the small field behind Vau Trembliers, Daffodils, not native to Alderney and here a remnant of flower crops introduced in the 1950s, when this and the adjacent field were part of the horticultural enterprise, include amongst the encroaching bracken and bramble, good colonies of two imported species, the British native Wild Daffodil Narcissus pseudonarcissus subsp. pseudonarcissus in which the outer ring of tepals (outer perianth) are paler than the corona (trumpet) and what is probably the Spanish Daffodil N. pseudonarcissus subsp. major, in which the outer tepals are twisted at the base and the same colour as the corona. Although brambles and bracken have encroached on part of this area the Daffodils are still surviving beneath them, flowering before they open their leaves.
Returning from this field along the road back to the car park area above the bay, several patches of Stinking Iris Iris foetidissima, will be noticed. The verge at the base of the wall is the principal site of Druce's Oxtongue Picris hieracoides var. incana and if you look carefully you should find a single plant of Burnet Rose Rosa pimpinellifolia emerging from a crevice in the dry stone wall. This too is very rare in Alderney. Self-sown Giant Echium Echium pininana, appear most years in a small planted area nearer the car park, whilst a well grown bush of Darwin's Barberry Berberis darwinii, flowers from early February on, with several small self-seeded bushes around it and another large bush, also probably self-seeded from this, in the quarry spoil across the road. A few yards from this last shrub, note a small clump of one of the Bamboos, (species not yet identified), which has established itself amongst the brambles here in the last 5-6 years and is spreading slowly.
Corblets Quarry, the Campsite and Fort Albert hill;
Moving a little inland, Corblets Quarry holds more uncommon plants. In the water itself a large colony of Curly Waterweed Lagarosiphon major grows. Rooted well down in the quarry some of its stems must be 15-20m in length. Around the edges of the water area large quantities of Water Fern Azolla filiculoides, may be found from time to time. Also with very long petioles, floating leaves of Broad-leaved Pondweed Potamogeton natans are frequently seen in clumps whilst, in the shallower water on the flooded shelf near the hut, the Small Pondweed P. berchtoldii is frequent. Ivy-leaved Duckweed Lemna trisulca, is also found floating near the surface occasionally. Toad Rush and other rushes are found at the base of the walls round the margins, whilst the white-flowered form of Hoary Stock is frequent on the cliff faces, with an occasional plant of Ploughman's-spikenard Inula conyza in other crevices on and near the base of the cliffs.
.. Figure 50. Curly Waterweed here..................
For many years a plant of White Water-lily Nymphaea alba, thrived in the shallow area. This still survived a number of years after much of the water was pumped out for domestic used following the 1986 drought, temporarily drying out the shallower area, but eventually succumbed to prolonged dehydration when the level was again lowered. The small dry area of quarry floor on the S side has a number of rushes and Brookweed Samolus valerandi in its moister parts and several of the very small Clovers, Herb Robert, Crane's-bills and Stork's-bills amongst the rabbit cropped turf
The 'pond' which, from about 1950-90 was stocked with fish for the local angling club, and to which, when Mannez pond dried out completely in August 1989, for the first time in many years, several thousand goldfish and small black carp of some sort, presumably breeding from throwouts from garden ponds, which had been gradually confined in a rapidly reducing area of water there, were rescued and transferred, also provides a resting place for the many seagulls, (here the majority are usually Greater Blackbacks) and a few Terns, which are frequently to be found on the beach and around the adjacent shores, also with a number of small migrant waders in Spring and Autumn. The pond also provides regular breeding grounds for a pair of Moorhen and some Coots. A male Mute Swan spent a couple of years here in 1989-90 eventually dying here, whilst a pair of Swans overwintered here in 1995. Other migrant freshwater and seabirds are noted from time to time. These have included Great Crested Grebe, a Black Swan and a pair of Whooper Swans.
The high ground behind Corblets Quarry on the Campsite side is actually part of a large sand dune and a large area of Marram Grass is to be found here, running almost up to the quarry rim. Two smaller quarries have been cut into the rock base from this side. In one, almost opposite Saye Farm, Little Robin Geranium purpureum, has been recorded. The other is just behind the Hammond Memorial and is currently being filled in with spoil from the Banquage housing scheme. In various places between the roads whose junction is here and the main quarry, small numbers of Cyclamen Cyclamen hederifolium, Weld Reseda luteola, Apple Malus domestica, scattered Rose bushes, mostly Rosa canina and R. stylosa, can be found. A single large plant of Henbane Hyocyamus niger emerged beside the railway line, eventually flowering in 1990, from the disturbed ground when a trench was put through for a water pipe from the quarry to the pumping station and backfilled, shortly after the 1986 drought badly depleted supplies in the main reservoir. The seeds of this had probably been in the ground since Victorian times and, in typical Solanaceae family style, germinated long after, when the ground was disturbed again. It has only been recorded three times in the island since 1970 and has not reappeared here since this plant flowered 10 years ago.
By the Hammond Memorial itself a single plant of Meadow Crane's-bill Geranium pratensis, has flourished at the base of its wall for many years, its perennial rootstock surviving almost annual mowing or strimming by the States, usually when it is flowering. Just across the road from here towards the railway line, a sizeable stand of Hoary Cress Lepidium draba subsp. draba, has survived for more than a century, but has not spread elsewhere in the island.
On the opposite side of the road the slope running up to Fort Albert has been well grazed in recent years, but still, in contravention of the Mauvaises Herbes Law, houses large amounts of Ragwort. Archaeological evidence of Alderney's earliest settlement have been uncovered on its slopes at the further end by Whitegates. In the shallow turf over the military road running up to the back of the fort, several of our less common small plants may be found, including a few Green-winged Orchids Orchis morio, and good numbers of Ladies-tresses Orchids Spiranthes spiralis, may be found in due season.
................ Figure 51. Henbane
Following the road round Longis Common from the Whitegates level crossing, a number of garden escapes are long naturalised. Snow-in-Summer Cerastium tomentosum, Aubretia Aubrieta deltoides, Oxalis, most frequently Pink Sorrel Oxalis articulata, appear on several banks and, most curious, a spectacular show of the delicate lavender striped white flowers of Spring Starflower Tristagma uniflorum, a bulbous Lily family plant, emerge THROUGH the asphalte along the base of the wall of Red Tiles each February/March, despite several resurfacings of the road over the years.
The area of the Coastguards cottages down to the Nunnery and across the road at Les Huguettes is of great archaeological interest and several major excavations have taken place in the last 170 years, the results of some of which are on display in the Museum.
Longis Common itself has also been disturbed several times by military activity during this same period, most recently by the construction of a number of German bunkers in the 1940s and a Victorian military road runs across it from below Les Huguettes to Sharpe's Farm, the former Corblets Barracks. Along this track a large patch of Horse-radish Armoracia rusticana, will be found on the hillside just beyond "The Kennels".
A wide variety of grass species compose the turf on the common, but through lack of regular grazing or cultivation since the 1950s coarse Cock's-foot Dactylis glomerata, is dominant over much of the area with Gorse, Bramble, Wild and Sea Radish and, in the damper patches Common Fleabane Pulicaria dysenterica and Willow scrub, mainly Rusty Sallow Salix cinerea subsp. oleifolia, encroaching. The well trodden pathways where the grass remains short are a botanist's haven. Rue-leaved Saxifrage Saxifraga tridactylites, Common Whitlow-grass Erophila verna, Small Hare's-ear Bupleurum baldense, Pale Flax Linum bienne and Fairy Flax L. catharticum, Portland Spurge Euphorbia portlandica, Thyme Thymus polytrichum, Common and less frequently Purple Broomrapes, Yarrow, Bastard Toadflax, English, Biting and White Stonecrops Sedum anglicum, S. acre & S. album, Perennial Wall-rocket Diplotaxis muralis, Hoary Mustard hirschfeldia incana, Crested Dog's-tail Cynosurus cristata, occasionally Rough Dog's-tail C. echinatus, Silver Hairgrass Aira caryophyllea, Sand Cat's-tail Phleum arenaria, Hare's-tail Lagurus ovatus, Fern and Sea-fern Grass Catapodium rigidum & C. marinum, Sweet Vernal-grass Anthoxanthum odoratum, etc. several of them rare or absent from Britain.
Many of the yellow Asteraceae (Formerly Compositae or Daisy family) are to be found, Hawkweeds, Hawkbits, Hawk's-beards, Dandelions, Cat's-ears including the tiny Smooth Cat's-ear Hypochoeris glabra, quite common in parts of Alderney, but on the Red Data Book Scarce Species list. Pyramidal Orchids are scattered across the area especially along the roadside verges. Dodder Cuscuta epithymum, forms occasional large patches, rarely found in Alderney on its usual host, Gorse, despite the vast quantities everywhere, here as seems more common in the island, prostrate on the ground, parasitising Thyme.
...................Figure 52. Longis Common & pond in March 1990.............
Round the pond, an unwise planting of White Poplar Populus alba, at the northern end has suckered considerably, whilst the native Common Reed Phragmites australis has spread mightily in the last fifteen years or so. These provide excellent cover for breeding warblers and tits. A few willows will be found this side. On the eastern side a good stand of Yellow Flag Iris pseudacorus, will be found among the brambles. Part of the pond itself was dug out by the Alderney Society in the late 1980s, to leave open water after years of neglect had almost filled it with vegetation. This was to be a scheme to restore the pond to provide a considerable area of open water, to be carried out in 4-5 stages, whenever the pond dried out sufficiently to allow machinery to work there. The island's water supplies were enhanced in the early 90s by several boreholes drilled through the peat under the sand of the common, which in some years, when the need arises, can cause the free water in the pond to vanish within a couple of weeks of pumping starting, usually in April or May just as the tadpoles are maturing and can survive out of the water. As this seemed to be likely to become a regular occurrence, the scheme to restore the full size of the pond was abandoned. A number of freshwater birds, Coot, Moorhen, Mallard and Water Rail have bred regularly in the area since the water was opened up.
Old maps showed that 250 years ago the pond, (called in old documents, La Mare du Roe, the King's pond) was fed by a short stream entering on the northern side and leaving on the south to discharge onto the beach more or less in the middle of the bay. When the pond is full, fresh water still seeps under the German sea wall at this point and runs across the beach, becoming a considerable flow after heavy rain. Over the next 2-3 years several locally uncommon plants recovered their habitats. Branched Bur-reed Sparganium erectum re-appeared and has formed two large clumps. In 1992 I discovered a good patch of Cyperus Sedge Carex pseudocyperus there, the first Channel Island record. Ivy-leaved Duckweed is seen most years in very variable quantities and large quantities of frog spawn have appeared. Frogs are not native to Alderney but have been introduced since the war to domestic ponds and have spread.
Several years of poor rainfall since the late 80s clearance, have caused the pond to dry up on a number of occasions when water has been extracted from the surrounding boreholes to top up the reservoir for domestic purposes. Most recently the pond has been dry, except for short periods immediately after heavy rainfall, since early 2005 when the water table fell below the level of the bottom of the pond, (it is now July 2006 following the third driest total rainfall January-June period since our daily records started in 1955). Water fowl have had a poor time here over the last two years and most do not appear to have bred here this year and are rarely seen from the hide at present.
Geologically the Common, right up to the walls of Fort Albert and much of the area between here and Braye and Corblets Bays are overlain with blown sand. Under the common itself and parts of the beach, there are several layers of peat interleaved with layers of sand over the bedrock, from the times during the several ice ages when the waters receded and this area became a freshwater pond.
The pollen of many trees; Alder, Ash, Birch, Beech, Dogwood, Elm, Holly, Hornbeam, Lime, Oak and Evergreen Oak and Willow; and shrubby species; Alder Buckthorn, Elder, Hazel, Heath and Heather, Ivy and Viburnum, etc.; has been found in the peat below Longis Common. Samples taken from the lowest levels by James & Dillon in 1992 were dated to about 3,780 ± 45 years BP, and indicated an area of mainly damp, open grass (with Nettles Urtica spp. and Hydrocotyle), fern and sedge vegetation, with some salt marsh plants and open water containing Myriophyllum and Potamogeton, a base of organic silt overlying the Alderney Sandstone, about 7m below today's dune surface and roughly at today's LWM. The few tree pollens present at this level were mainly of deciduous species, principally Oak and Alder with smaller amounts of the other species. In historical times Alderney has frequently been described as "treeless". This is not of course true, although to the casual observer, passing by sea on the mail boat, as most of those earlier writers did, there were few to be seen. The tree species list mirrors closely that found in peat samples taken in 1966, from Vazon Bay in Guernsey at about the same height above HWM (c. 4m) and of similar date. These lists and the more detailed list of herbaceous species found in 1992, suggest that a number of species not considered native by Babington, on his visits from 1825-35 and by Marquand, in his detailed recording in the Bailiwick, from around 1885 to 1920, were present in prehistoric times, but may have died out or been cut down in prehistoric times and reintroduced more recently. Most of Alderney's present trees have been planted since the Second World War and only Hawthorn, Sycamore (neither of which are present in the peat samples), White Poplar and Rusty Sallow, reproduce freely. From the peat samples, Alder, Beech, Birch, Oak and Pine pollen is abundant, (with fluctuations at different depths) from the earliest layers upwards.
In the next band, over about 1,100 years, Evergreen Oak and Hornbeam appear, and the many aquatic taxa, Myriophyllum, Potamogeton, Lemna, Nuphar, Nymphæa, Elodea/Lagarosiphon, Iris, Typha latifolia, Sparganium, Hydrocotyle, etc. indicate areas of open fresh water in the area including the present Longis Pond. Grasses, Sedges, Bracken and other Filicales (including Royal Fern Osmunda regalis) are abundant, Buck's-horn Plantain Plantago coronopus and Sand Quillwort Isoetes histrix. Tree pollen increased markedly as did shrubby species such as Frangula, Ilex, Viburnum, Calluna and Erica species. The herb flora in this zone includes species already mentioned; with Ribwort Plantain Plantago lanceolata now common and a number of cereal seeds found, both suggestive of agricultural cultivation, and the addition of Potentilla, Thalictrum, various Rubiacæ, Brassicaceæ and Asteraceæ. The next zone, dated to about 2665 ± 50 BP, whilst grass, fern and sedge species still dominate, shows a rise in Rumex spp., various Chenopodiaceæ, Asteraceæ, Apiaceæ, Brassicaceæ and Ranunculaceæ, whilst the Pteridophytes decline somewhat. Above this zone the vegetation is suggestive of heath land with a rise in Heather Calluna and other Ericaceous species. The formation of the peat ceased at around 1385 ± 85 BP when the area appears to have been inundated with blown sand, containing few organic remains, to a depth today of about 4m. All of the many archæological finds on and around Longis Common, up to the early Iron Age, are below this sand. Of the approximately 80 herbaceous groups, families, genera and individually identified species, whose pollen was found, Campanulaceæ, Osmunda regalis, Filipendula, Thalictrum, Typha latifolia, Rumex hydrolapathum, Succisa and Lythrum, and many of the 20 or so tree and shrub species, are not found in Alderney today, except as garden escapes or deliberate plantings.
Along the path on eastern side of the pond a single plant of Peruvian Squill Scilla peruviana, has survived for at least 15 years, apparently remnant of a large clump which existed here 20 or more years ago, until someone dug them up. It flowers in some years producing its large, almost spherical brilliant blue head.
Across the road, behind the German sea wall, which has converted the area from a moving dune area to a fixed dune system, Sand Couch Elytrigia juncea, is dominant over part of the area, whilst Marram Ammophila arenaria, becomes the dominant grass to the east of this. Whilst Marram also occurs behind Corblets and to a lesser extent Braye Bays it is absent from the dunes at Platte Saline, where both Sea E. atherica and Sand Couch are the principal grasses. In some seasonally dampish hollows behind the wall various fungi appear from time to time including the black Deadman's Fingers Xylaria polymorpha and the pore fungus Tulostoma brumale.
Either side of the grass verge at the extreme edge of this Region, by the boundary with Region 7, the island's only surviving colony of Red Bartsia Odontites vernus, a semi-parasite first recorded in Alderney in 1838, was apparently eliminated by 1993 through 3-4 years of frequent mowing of the verge but, after a cable trench was put through on the S. side of the road about 1996 and the trench backfilled, reappeared in the recently disturbed soil as a very healthy stand at almost the same spot in 1998. The colony the other side of the road seems to have disappeared under spreading Hottentot Fig.
Mannez Garenne and Hill;
Most of the rising ground to the north of this point forms part of the Mannez Garenne. In olden times the Seigneur's or Governor's private rabbit warren. Now bearing a mass of German fortifications, culminating on its highest point in the massive Fire Control Tower, visible from much of the island, standing on the edge of the quarry rim above Mannez Quarry (which is in Region 7) and known to locals as "The Odeon", this rough and untended area, despite encroaching bracken, bramble, Hawthorn, Blackthorn and Gorse scrub and coarser grasses, holds a wealth of interesting and, often rare elsewhere in Alderney, or in some case nationally rare or endangered, plants.
Amongst these may be cited, Bastard Toadflax in a large quantity over a 50 x 25m area, Green-winged Orchids scattered in the short turf over the higher parts, variable in numbers from year to year, but often as many as 2-300 plants seen in total. Pyramidal and Autumn Lady's-tresses Orchids; a number of the small prostrate clover family plants, Bird's-foot Ornithopus perpusillus; Western, Rough, Subterranean, Suffocated and Bird's-foot Clovers Trifolium occidentale, T. scabrum, T. subterraneum, T. suffocatum & T. ornithopodiodes respectively; with considerable quantities of Common and Narrow-leaved Vetch Vicia sativa & V. sativa subsp. nigra and the delicate Hairy Tare V. hirsuta scrambling through the scrub.
Figure 53. Sand Crocus...................................................... Figure 54. Small Restharrow
Small Hare's-ear; Carline Thistle Carlina vulgaris; about 60-70% of the island's population of Wild Privet Ligustrum vulgare; scattered wild Roses of several species; large clumps of self sown naturalised Daffodils, most frequently the sweet-scented, 8-10 headed, Narcissus 'Grande Primo Citronière', which flowers from as early as late December/January and makes a tremendous show by March; Bluebells, both the (increasingly rare in Britain) English native Hyacinthoides non-scripta and naturalised Spanish bluebell H. hispanica and inevitably a range of hybrids between the two; and including the Endangered Species, Small Restharrow Ononis reclinata, (photo above) on the SE side and a small area of the southern rim of Berry's Quarry holds another colony of Sand Crocus, (photo above).
Quantities of Stinking Iris grow amongst the scrub, with more Roses, Hawthorn and Elder bushes standing above the Gorse and Bracken.
Behind the Odeon to its west lies Berry's Quarry. Not particularly deep with the quarry floor level with the surrounding land, this was used until recent years as a market garden with a well built greenhouse and plastic tunnels producing tomatoes, cucumbers and a variety of vegetables for local consumption. For a short time the greenhouse then became a parrot sanctuary, but that enterprise failed. Other buildings in the quarry now provide accommodation for the island laundry, plumber's store, a car repair garage, etc. Much rubbish has been dumped in the quarry and the pond area on the NE side dries out in most years. The middle of the quarry becomes a bog in most winters as the pond fills up. Several species of rush and sedge survive here, the edges of the pond are colonised by Brookweed and various ferns and there are surviving remnants of fruit production with several Apple trees, two large Fig trees and some Blackcurrant bushes. Small colonies of Great Mullein, Musk Thistle Carduus nutans and Viper's Buglos are noted. Many small songbirds nest in the quarry area.
On a barish patch by the road entrance to the quarry, on the N. quarry rim above the pond area, several of the minute early flowering plants may be found; Whitlow-grass, Rue-leaved Saxifrage, Blinks Montia fontana, Early and Changing Forget-me-nots and several Mouse-ears, including Cerastium diffusum & C. semidecandrum.
We are now back to Sharpe's Farm buildings and can complete the study of Region 6 by a visit to Longis Bay.
As will be seen from the maps (frontispiece and page 3), most of the bay from the Raz Causeway to The Nunnery falls within this Region. Before the last war the bay was backed by a moving sand dune system. The building of the German sea wall as a defence against possible Allied landings was only partially completed with a considerable gap still left between the two sections when the war in Europe ended. This has greatly modified both the beach and dune habitats. Storms from time to time scour the sand back off the beach revealing large areas of small rocks, an area of peat, formed centuries ago and occasionally revealing artefacts such as military buttons from the Victorian period, bits of Roman bricks and tiles and sometimes, after prolonged gales from E-SE, exposing the foundations of the wall. A few weeks later, with winds from a southerly or SW direction the rocks are covered again leaving a much larger expanse of smooth sand exposed at low tides and as much as 1-1.5m of sand has built up against the base of the wall.
Behind the wall the dunes have become permanent, completely stable and colonised over the last 50 years with the plants already mentioned.
At low tide on any day, a considerable area of rocks and rock pools is exposed and most of the species of plant and animal mentioned at the beginning of this chapter can be found.
The vegetation along the edge of the remaining exposed dune section and the base of the wall above normal HWM holds a number of plants, none in any great quantity. At the western end below the German gun emplacement nearest the Nunnery a somewhat wider area of shingle and sand usually above HWM is colonised by brambles, Sea Beet, Sea Sandwort a few grasses and Campions. Beyond this, the fallen walls of part of the old Roman fort have.lain on the beach since the 15th century. The walls above were rebuilt about 1790 and the area between the two now holds dense spreading colonies of Ivy and The Duke of Argyll's Tea-plant. The frequently shifting sands mean that no permanent vegetation survives along most of the length of the first
Figure 53. Longis Bay about 1935....................
section of the sea wall. in the few metres before it finishes, more Sea Sandwort and one or two plants of Sea Kale may be found, whilst in the dune section up to the causeway, Sea Bindweed, Sea Spurge and Sea Beet may be found amongst the stabilising grasses, with occasional plants of Hoary Mustard, Wall Rocket and other Brassicaceae occurring as well as several of the yellow-flowered Asteraceae (Daisy family).
Figure 54. Longis Bay today .
In the dunes behind the Targets, just to the right of the white dot on the skyline on the photograph above, several of the Dragonfly species which breed in Corblets, Mannez and Longis ponds may often be seen in due season. Of the nine species recorded in the island, the Emperor Dragonfly Anax imperator and the Blue-tailed Damselfly Aeschna elegans, are the most common and are also frequently seen round garden ponds.
The other species recorded are; Migrant Hawker Aeshna mixta, Southern Emerald Damselfly Lestes barbarus, Four-spotted Chaser Libellula quadrimaculata, Yellow-winged Darter Sympetrum flaveolus, Red-veined Darter Sympetrum fonscolombei, Common Darter Sympetrum striolatum and Blue-tailed Skimmer Orthretrum cancellatum.
Great Green Bush-Crickets Tettigonia viridissima, are also sometimes found in the bramble scrub in these areas.
< Figure 59. Emperor Dragonfly ...................... Figure 60. Great Green Bush-cricket >