There are two stretches of dangerous waters around Alderney, the Alderney Race to the north-east and The Swinge to the north-west. Mannez Lighthouse was built in 1912 to protect shipping on the Race and this actually stands on the north-east end of the island near the lovely Corblets and Arch Bays. This is not to be confused with the famous Les Casquets Lighthouse, whose stories have inspired both song and poem, situated off the coast of Alderney on a rock to the north-west of the island, far beyond the island of Burhou (famous for its colony of puffins.)
With many a wreck around Alderney’s waters, I’m sure both lighthouses have helped to give confidence and assurance as they have lit up these difficult stretches of waters. For the last 100 years the Mannez Lighthouse has guided ships around the submerged rocks and raging currents of The Race, through twilight times and storms and fog. Not many intelligent sailors would attempt either stretch of water at night I shouldn’t think, although I’m sure a good few have tried, some to their cost.
The building of this iconic black and white striped structure of Mannez was overseen by a local businessman (according to Wikipedia) called William Baron. The last lighthouse keeper in residence left in 1997. In 2011 the main beam was switched off and the fog horn silenced at the same time, and now the light given out is minimal. Let’s hope the number of island wrecks are not increased by this action and that the most advanced navigational equipment keep sea travellers safe around Alderney’s beautiful shores.
You can still visit Mannez Lighthouse during the summer and climb the tower to enjoy the fantastic views over the island and beyond, and the island’s little railway still chugs its path to the quarry, only a short walk away, although the railway’s famous station master ‘Elizabeth Beresford’ of Womble fame, passed away a couple of years ago.
And so I would like to leave you with this apt festive message, celebrating 100 years of light shining in the darkness of Alderney:
May you follow your light and be kept safe as we celebrate
the Light of the World this Christmas Time.
(I searched in all my decorations boxes for this little nativity so that I could take a photo. It is only about 3cm high and I knew I would have put it somewhere safe. Yesterday evening it suddenly came to me…. it was snug inside Santa! Maybe there’s a metaphor in there somewhere about the magic of Christmas, but the true meaning of Christmas is still hidden beneath waiting for us to find it?)