An extension of its larger and brasher St Brelade's Bay beach at low tide, Ouaisné is separated from its slightly longer, more famous, but much more crowded neighbour by a small promontary when the tide rises, and has its own access down Mont du Ouaisné.
On the headland at the eastern end of the bay is La Cotte de St Brelade, a cave where a wealth of prehistoric remains have been discovered by archaeologists. The cave is sealed pending further excavation.
Ouaisné Common is one of the Island’s richest and most diverse nature reserves. For its small size (10 hectares), Ouaisné consists of a remarkable variety of habitats. It comprises of a stabilised sand dune which is transforming to heathland. These changes are taking place for a number of reasons, including the loss of grazing by larger animals, and the construction of the German defensive wall.
Ouaisné has a rich and varied wildlife due to the large number of small but varied habitat types. These consist of wetland areas including dune slacks, bog and mature willow carr as well as open sand, and a varied mix of vegetation stands including blocks of gorse, dwarf shrub heath and grassland. There is also a large pond and reed bed on the southern edge of the site.
Historically, the land use which most likely shaped the character of the common and its species composition was that of grazing. Grazing by sheep, horses and cattle that belonged to the tenants of this once small community was common for hundreds of years up to the 17th century. The tenants would also have had rights to the harvesting of bracken (for animal bedding) and gorse (for bedding and fuel). Tenants still do have these rights, but they are no longer practised.
The common is now separated from the beach by a coastal protection wall, constructed by the Germans during the Occupation in 1940 - 45. This has played a major role in stabilising the dunes by interrupting the flow of sand being blown from the beach onto the common. This stabilisation enables scrub to grow, which tends to overshadow lower growing species. Present day management of the common includes control of scrub and other invasive species including bracken.
Jersey’s climate is oceanic, and the entire south-west coast of Jersey is affected by high summer temperatures creating a Mediterranean-style climate.
Ouaisné common is sheltered by the surrounding escarpment, though open to the sea in the south. It is also shielded from the full force of the Atlantic winds by the headland of La Corbière which produces a rain-shadow effect on areas to the east, splitting the rain-bearing winds to the south and west of St Brelade's Bay.
The predominant climatic influences on Ouaisné common are lower rainfall and temperatures which favour a variety of species. Ouaisne common was designated as an ecological Site of Special Interest in 2007.
The number of plant species present at Ouaisné is very high for such a small area. A total of 163 species were found from surveys. This includes at least seven rare species, which are as follows:
- marsh St John's wort (Hypericum elodes)
- lesser skull-cap (Scutellaria minor)
- cross-leaved heath (Erica tetralix)
- creeping willow (Salix repens)
- shoreweed (Littorella uniflora)
- greater spearwort (Ranunculus lingua)
The large number of species found on Ouaisné common may be attributed to the diverse habitats. Its species diversity is unparalleled by any other area of similar size in Jersey
Rabbits are the most predominant mammal resident on site. They represent the only means of grazing the grasslands at present, and are therefore an integral part of the habitats.
During a small mammal survey in the 1990s the lesser white toothed shrew (Crocidura suaveolens), common shrew (Sorex araneus), bank vole (Clethrionomys glareolus) and the wood mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus) were recorded at the site.
Reptiles and amphibians
The green lizard (Lacerta viridis), agile frog (Rana dalmatina), the grass snake (Natrix natrix), the palmate newt (Triturus helveticus) and the slow worm (Anguis fragilis) are all present at Ouaisné. Ouaisné was the last natural breeding site for agile frogs until a recent translocation to a new site.
The grass snake (Natrix natrix) may be found in quite dry woods, hedgerows and meadows. It occurs in the north and south of Ouaisné Common, particularly where heathland vegetation occurs close to damp grassland. North of the common, on private land, grass snake eggs were discovered and 40 juveniles were released into the grounds.
The common also provides a safe haven for various invertebrate species.
The ant lion (Euroleon nostras), was recorded from the common in 1957 and after a long period of not being seen was recorded again in 2005. The ant lion is a southern European insect that is absent from the rest of the British Isles and other Channel Islands.
Other insects of interest found at Ouaisne are:
- blue-winged grasshopper (Oedipoda caerulescens)
- southern emerald damselfly (Lestes barbarus)
- wood ant (Formica pratensis)
- field cricket (Gryllus campestris)
- heath grasshopper (Chorthippus vagans)
- Jersey grasshopper (Euchorthippus pulvinatus elegantulus)
- wasp spider (Argiope bruennichi)
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