Jun
11

Alderney "Once in a Lifetime" Island Getaway! (34514)

Event Overview

One of the crown jewel events of 2018 - OutdoorLads are off to Alderney! We have the spectacular Fort Clonque for the week.

Join OutdoorLads for a once-in-a-lifetime experience, as we fly off across the Channel to spend four days on the magical island of Alderney. Lying only a few miles off the Normandy shore, Alderney is part of the Baliwick of Guernsey in the Channel Islands. 

 

The Accomodation

We will be staying in the beautifully restored Fort Clonque - a Landmark Trust property - which has rather comfortable space for thirteen of us to stay. Perched on a rocky outcrop, the Fort is linked to the rest of the island by a tidal causeway. 

 Warm, cosy wood lined rooms, open fires and offering breathtaking views the mostly twin rooms, with private bathrooms and living quarters, are spread across several small buildings around the central courtyard. Take a look at the location, for my meagure description could never do this amazing place justice!

Additional Costs

As this event is on a island some forty minutes from mainland Britain, YOU WILL HAVE TO BOOK PASSAGE TO THE ISLAND - Currently air and sea transport timetables for summer 2018 have yet to be published. Once registered you will get  a message as soon as transport options are known.

The cost of the event will include food for our time there, but you will need to buy your own drink - there are of course likely to be restrictions on the transport weights but there are shops in St Ann. We are also planning to have a celebratory meal out in the pub one evening so a few notes may help!

 

About Alderney

With history and human remains dating back to the last major ice-age, Alderney has been an island for the better part of ten thousand years. Measuring only 4 square miles, with one parish (St Annes) it is the third largest of the Channel Islands and the only remaining continental possessions of a Crown brought to us by William the Conquer. The major fortifications were started by Henry VIII as part of his defence of the realm - and were continued throughout the next four hundred years. 

The position of the Channel Islands so close to France made them a perfect place for privateers, many of who grew rich on their spoils. Indeed much of this loot was spent on some of the fine buildings still extant on the island. New forts, expanded church and warehouses & quays. 

During the Victorian period, the British Government funded the building and upgrading of thirteen forts and naval installations. Among these included a new, much enlarged breakwater and Fort Clonque. 

During the second World War, the British War Office and Winston Churchill decided that they were unable to defend the Channel Islands. Alderney, with a population of c.1500 was entirely evacuated in June 1940 leaving a deserted island which the German forces occupied. They quickly set about building parts of the Atlantic Wall, four internment camps and dozens of buildings. Due to blockading by the Royal Navy and the war crimes committed on the island, Islanders were unable to return home until December 1945. When they did they found their houses ransacked, burnt down or simply destroyed. 

For several years the island operated as a communal farm, with all profits going into a Government backed fund aimed at rebuilding Alderney. By 1948 Alderney had established a mesaure of self governance and were moved from the Home Office to the Baliwick of Guernsey for legal, economic and governance functions. THis included the running of the airport and harbour facilities. 

With these changes the island was able to move from an almost exclusivly arable economy to a more service and tourism based system. Being part of the Baliwick had significant tax and business benefits and several large multinational enterprises base themselves in Alderney. 

Between beautifully soft, sandy beaches and impressive cliffs, Alderney and its surrounding islets support a rich flora and fauna. Trees are rather scarce, as many were cut down in the 17th century to fuel the lighthouses on Alderney and the Casquets. Those trees that remain include cabbage trees, due to the mild climate – often miscalled "palms" but of the lily family), and there are some small woods dotted about the island. Puffins on Burhou and gannets on Les Étacs (popularly called Gannet Rock) just off Alderney are a great draw for many visitors to the island.

Itinerary

**Will be updated closer to the event, depends on transport options**

Monday 11th June

Insert arrival info as per above when known. Check in to Fort, explore the local area. Dinner and relax.

Tuesday/Wednesday

Explore the island, understand the turbulant history of the island with visits to the many forts and buildings scattered about. The Lighthouse in the east of the island offers spectacular views, bird watching and then a trip on the Channel Islands steam railway. Or enjoy the stunning sandy beaches with paddle in sea and maybe a little sunbathing or fishing, perhaps take out a sea kayak and explore the coastlineor simply kick back with a book to read and relax.  Breakfasts and evening meals provided as part of the event cost.

Thursday 14th June

We will have a celebratory visit to the local pub and enjoy our last full day on our island hideaway.

Friday 15th June

Breakfast, then we will have to check out of the fort and make our way off the island. Exact timings depend on the transport options and this itinerary will be updated as soon as more is known.

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What to bring

Bedding is provided but you will need a washkit and clothes for five days on the island!

Food & Drink

Breakfasts and two full dinners are fully included in the cost of the event, along with tea and coffee. We will descend upon a local hostellry one evening for a celebratory meal - bring a few notes!

Meeting & Times

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History and Restoration

Great Victorian coastal defences

 

Although the Channel forts had formed the backbone of our great Victorian coastal defences, most of them were at that time abandoned and falling into ruin. It was a far-sighted action on the part of John Smith, the Trust’s founder, to take on one of them and set about its repair. The Trust’s first tasks after taking over the fort were to survey the buildings down to the last stone, and then to number and mark every piece of stonework that needed to be moved back to its original position.

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The bunker was full of rubbish, only one original window had survived in ‘Officers’, roofs were sagging, and cast iron girders were rusting away. The old bricks had been made in the local brickworks from island clay and were of poor quality. All the stone and wood used in the repairs was salvaged: the oak floorboards in the living room of ‘Soldiers’ came from Fort Tourgis, for example, while the ‘Officers’ fireplaces came from Fort Albert. New doors were made, with handles produced specially by a Guernsey blacksmith.

The main task that faced the Trust, and its architect Philip Jebb, was the undoing of the extensive damage done to the fort by the Germans, in their indiscriminate use of concrete, asphalt and barbed wire. In addition to this, the aim was to reinstate the exterior of the fort to its original Victorian appearance – except for the bunker, which was anyway pretty well indestructible, and which now serves as a bedroom. The light and pleasant rooms inside the two barrack buildings were also to be restored, but modernised as necessary.

The difficulties of managing such a project, on what is virtually an island off an island, were formidable. All materials and equipment had to be specially transported to the fort by sea. Moreover, what could be done on any given day depended entirely on the weather, and especially on the wind which in Alderney can rise in an hour or two to a force to which it is impossible to stand up. Even the provision of basic services presented quite a problem. For many years water came from a spring on the shore, to be stored in a large tank. And only in 1990 was the fort connected to the island’s electricity supply, candles and gas having previously supplied all light and heat.

Some of the work had to be done by a regular contractor, but much else could be done – and would best be done – in a more gradual way. For instance, it was essential that all concrete be removed without causing damage to the blocks of granite that had been set carelessly in it, so that they could be reused. By the greatest good fortune, just at the point in 1967 when Landmark was considering how to achieve this, Arthur Markell retired from his post as supervisor of the Admiralty Breakwater.

Arthur Markell – ‘a man who really knows what life means, and who shows it in the work he is doing’ – had exactly the experience and skills the Trust needed, and he was employed at once. In 1984, after having worked for the Trust for some sixteen years or more, he was described as ‘an incredible good 79 years .. and having been a civil engineer can turn his hand to most things... his woodwork is of cabinet-maker standard.’ (He was nothing if not versatile: he also taught piano and had played in good hotels in London as part of dinnertime entertainment, as well as in the local cinema.) He was also said ‘always to have a smile on his face’ and to be ‘a perfectionist in everything that he did – the material for every job was carefully chosen and nothing but the right material would do, and the position of every screw and nail was precisely measured before insertion’, ‘you couldn’t imagine a better man for the job’. Throughout the restoration of the Fort he kept a diary in which he recorded every day the weather, the comings and goings of visitors and the maintenance and restoration tasks he had carried out on the Fort that day. With the help of an assistant, Mr. Markell was largely responsible for all the long and arduous work of clearing up the fort, rebuilding parapets and repointing walls, renewing windows and doors, fitting new bathrooms and kitchens, and painting walls. A team of builders, a maximum of five at any one time, was brought in only when it was necessary: to clear the unwanted concrete with pneumatic hammers, to renew the drawbridge, the ramp and the roofs of the barrack buildings (for which the original formula of lime cement poured over brick vaults to form a flat surface was reproduced) or to repair some of the vertiginous outer walls. Unfortunately, after Mr. Markell had carried out substantial repairs to the walls of Battery no. 3, the natural bridge that connected it to the rest of the rock collapsed during a storm in 1967, and that battery is no longer accessible. The collapse came as a shock to Mr. Duplain and caused him considerable anxiety, as he was afraid that the Trust might have suspected him of knowing the weakness of the arch, and concealing his knowledge.

Working with Victorian buildings of any sort teaches two main lessons: first, not to be afraid, indeed to be sure, of using a large scale, because they loved to – and in military buildings more than most; and, secondly, to be thorough about detail, because theirs was perhaps the supreme age of detailing, and a repair will look right only if done correspondingly well. 


Event Reference No:
34514