I like exploring islands and during a week’s holiday to Guernsey with my girlfriend I had the opportunity to explore more!
On our first day we found ourselves overlooking a small island off Guernsey’s west coast. As I constantly repeated how much I’d like to go to this little rock, like a petulant child, Alex did something far more useful and worked out we could cross on the next low tide. It must have been a frustrating two hours for Alex as I constantly consulted my watch; “Is it low tide yet?”
Lihou, the western most of the Channels Islands, and is jointly managed by the Guernsey Environment Department and the Lihou Charitable Trust. At low tide it is linked to the “mainland” by a 400m causeway; it was across this we walked at pace as time was of the essence, as we had only a few hours to explore before the causeway would be awash again.
At 20m at its highest point and only 15 ha in size, Lihou is a small, low-lying, flat island – something I’m used to visiting. Arriving on the island we walked towards the small house that greets you, passing the shingle beach that is off limits during the breeding season. Walking clockwise past the house, the island opened up in front of us; like many coastal islands it comprised of short grass interspersed with areas of bracken. A dry stone wall runs along the islands central ridge and leads the eye to the western end of the island which rises up in granite monoliths offering promises of migrant birds hopping among their crags.
We walked towards these and were rewarded with wheatear standing proudly on the lichen covered rocks. As time was against us we couldn’t linger long. As we walked back along the northern half of the island, swallows whipped low over the island’s grassland. More wheatear foraged on the grassland too, occasionally taking flight to find a vantage point on the wall. Apart from a few trees and bushes in the garden of the house, the only real cover was provided by waist high bracken; in this Lilliputian forest, chiffchaffs flitted from stem to stem. With the path forming a perfect net ride, the bird ringer in me itched for a mist net!
Having completed our all too brief tour of Lihou we sat on a bench next to the wall that surrounds the house. As swallows hurried past we looked back on Guernsey and I wondered if I could distract Alex enough so that the causeway would close and we would be temporarily marooned. Sadly, Alex is more sensible than I and kept a weather eye on the time. It was time to go; we took a final look up the island, taking in the remains of the island’s priory ruins and ticking stonechat.
We walked back with a little less pace.