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Alderney aerial-4.jpg
Aerial shot of Alderney (centre) and Burhou (upper right), the Swinge lies between them
Channel Islands location map (+parishes).svg
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British Isles.svg
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LocationEnglish Channel
Coordinates 49°43′48″N2°15′06″W / 49.73000°N 2.25167°W / 49.73000; -2.25167 Coordinates: 49°43′48″N2°15′06″W / 49.73000°N 2.25167°W / 49.73000; -2.25167
Official nameAlderney West Coast and the Burhou Islands
Designated24 August 2005
Reference no.1587 [1]

Burhou (pronounced ber-ROO) is a small island about 1.4 miles (2.3 km) northwest of Alderney that is part of the Channel Islands. It has no permanent residents, and is a bird sanctuary, so landing there is banned from March 15 to August 1st. The island's wildlife includes a colony of puffins (declining in numbers) and many rabbits.

Island Any piece of sub-continental land that is surrounded by water

An island or isle is any piece of sub-continental land that is surrounded by water. Very small islands such as emergent land features on atolls can be called islets, skerries, cays or keys. An island in a river or a lake island may be called an eyot or ait, and a small island off the coast may be called a holm. A grouping of geographically or geologically related islands is called an archipelago, such as the Philippines.

Alderney Channel Island, part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey

Alderney is the northernmost of the inhabited Channel Islands. It is part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey, a British Crown dependency. It is 3 miles (5 km) long and 1 12 miles (2.4 km) wide. The area is 3 square miles (8 km2), making it the third-largest island of the Channel Islands, and the second largest in the Bailiwick. It is around 10 miles (15 km) from the west of La Hague on the Cotentin Peninsula, Normandy, in France, 20 miles (30 km) from the north-east of Guernsey and 60 miles (100 km) from the south coast of Great Britain. It is the closest of the Channel Islands to the United Kingdom. It is separated from Cap de la Hague by the dangerous Alderney Race.

Channel Islands archipelago in the English Channel

The Channel Islands are an archipelago in the English Channel, off the French coast of Normandy. They include two Crown dependencies: the Bailiwick of Jersey, which is the largest of the islands; and the Bailiwick of Guernsey, consisting of Guernsey, Alderney, Sark and some smaller islands. They are considered the remnants of the Duchy of Normandy and, although they are not part of the United Kingdom, the UK is responsible for the defence and international relations of the islands. The Crown dependencies are not members of the Commonwealth of Nations or of the European Union. They have a total population of about 164,541, and the bailiwicks' capitals, Saint Helier and Saint Peter Port, have populations of 33,500 and 18,207, respectively. The total area of the islands is 198 km2.


It has no landing stage as such, but visitors use a small inlet. In rough weather it may be impossible to land.

The Guernsey botanist E. D. Marquand called it, "the most desolate and lonely of all the islands in our archipelago." He once had to spend the night there, as his return journey was delayed by fog.

Guernsey island in the bailiwick of Guernsey

Guernsey is an island in the English Channel off the coast of Normandy. It lies roughly north of Saint-Malo and to the west of Jersey and the Cotentin Peninsula. With several smaller nearby islands, it forms a jurisdiction within the Bailiwick of Guernsey, a British Crown dependency. The jurisdiction is made up of ten parishes on the island of Guernsey, three other inhabited islands, and many small islets and rocks.

The 1906 book, The Channel Pilot states –

The States of Alderney member, John Beaman has political responsibility for the island.

States of Alderney parliament/council and the legislature of Alderney

The States of Alderney is the parliament/council and the legislature of Alderney, part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey. The origin of the States is unknown, but has operated from the mediaeval period. The States of Alderney comprises ten Members, and a President of the States of Alderney, currently Stuart Trought who was elected in 2010 to replace Sir Norman Browse who retired after eight years of presidency.

John Beaman British politician

John Richard Beaman was formerly one of the ten States of Alderney Members, and he became the Chairman of the influential Policy and Finance Committee in January 2011. Prior to this, he was the Island’s Representative for Tourism. As well as chairman of the Policy and Finance Committee, Beaman was a member of the committees on Employment Legislation, and General Services, and the representative for agriculture, open areas, environment, wildlife, and the island of Burhou. Beaman's term of office ended in 2013.


Burhou is North West of Alderney Guernsey-Burhou.png
Burhou is North West of Alderney


Despite being isolated, and inhabited briefly and infrequently, Burhou has a long history. Formerly, like the rest of the English Channel, it would have been linked to both modern-day England and France by dry land many thousands of years ago.

English Channel Arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates southern England from northern France

The English Channel, also called simply the Channel, is the body of water that separates Southern England from northern France and links the southern part of the North Sea to the Atlantic Ocean. It is the busiest shipping area in the world.

Burhou, like many other Channel Islands (e.g. Lihou, Jethou), has the Norman suffix -hou , meaning a small island, from the Old Norse holmr. According to Dr. S.K. Kellet-Smith, "bur" refers to a storehouse – "Burhou is just the place where a fisherman would place a depository for his gear".

Lihou A small tidal island, on the west coast of Guernsey, Channel Islands

Lihou is a small tidal island located just off the west coast of the island of Guernsey, in the English Channel, between Great Britain and France. Administratively, Lihou forms part of the Parish of St. Peter's in the Bailiwick of Guernsey, and is now owned by the parliament of Guernsey, although there have been a number of owners in the past. Since 2006, the island has been jointly managed by the Guernsey Environment Department and the Lihou Charitable Trust. In the past the island was used by locals for the collection of seaweed for use as a fertiliser, but today Lihou is mainly used for tourism, including school trips. Lihou is also an important centre for conservation, forming part of a Ramsar wetland site for the preservation of rare birds and plants as well as historic ruins of a priory and a farmhouse.

Jethou island in Guernsey

Jethou is a small island that is part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey in the Channel Islands. It is privately leased, and not open to the public.

Norman language Romance language

Norman is a Romance language which can be classified as one of the Oïl languages along with French, Picard and Walloon. The name Norman-French is sometimes used to describe not only the Norman language, but also the administrative languages of Anglo-Norman and Law French used in England. For the most part, the written forms of Norman and modern French are mutually intelligible. This intelligibility was largely caused by Norman language's planned adaptation to French orthography.

However, signs of human occupation/visitation are much older. Flint flakes have been found on the island, and one is currently in the Alderney Museum. In 1847, F.C. Lukis found two standing stones, but these have since been lost, according to the archaeologist David Johnston.

Flint Cryptocrystalline form of the mineral quartz

Flint is a hard, sedimentary cryptocrystalline form of the mineral quartz, categorized as a variety of chert. It occurs chiefly as nodules and masses in sedimentary rocks, such as chalks and limestones. Inside the nodule, flint is usually dark grey, black, green, white or brown in colour, and often has a glassy or waxy appearance. A thin layer on the outside of the nodules is usually different in colour, typically white and rough in texture. From a petrological point of view, "flint" refers specifically to the form of chert which occurs in chalk or marly limestone. Similarly, "common chert" occurs in limestone.

The hut

According to the Assize Roll of the 14th century, Burhou was a rabbit warren, and a refuge for fishermen. As Victor Coysh deduces, this would have meant that there would have been some kind of shelter there, as it would be difficult for the fishermen to take refuge without it.

A hut was built on the island in 1820 as a shelter for fishermen and sailors at the instigation of John Le Mesurier (hereditary governor of Alderney), but was destroyed during the German occupation of the Channel Islands (the Wehrmacht used it for target practice during WWII). The hut was replaced in 1953, with basic accommodation which is rented out to visitors by Alderney Harbour Office.

Attempts have been periodically made to raise sheep there. In 1900, a French couple lived there for a year. The soil is thin, and spray frequently goes right over the island, ensuring high soil salinity. The island has no fresh water supply for much of the year, and has to rely on shipments, or formerly tanks.

Flora and fauna

The island's animals are mainly of the avian variety, although rabbits are long established here. The island has many puffins and some storm petrels. Although the latter have declined, they used to nest in the cottage's storm loft. Roderick Dobson in Birds of the Channel Islands said that puffins had been plentiful for over a century. The Birds of Guernsey (1878) by Cecil Smith states likewise. The puffins have had to compete with gulls, and in 1949, hundreds died from red mite infestation. The rabbit holes on the island make good nesting for them.

Amongst the plants noted here are sea spurry, forget-me-nots, scarlet pimpernel, field bugloss, bracken and nettles. E. D. Marquand noted a mere 18 species of plant here in 1909, but by the late twentieth century, Frances Le Sueur and David McClintock found 45, which they wrote up in the Transactions of La Société Guernesiaise.

See also

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  1. "Alderney West Coast and the Burhou Islands". Ramsar Sites Information Service. Retrieved 25 April 2018.

==External RAMSAR wetland