The Valley Commonwealth Walkway

Anguilla / Americas

Anguilla was originally known as Snake Island, not because it was over-run by snakes but on account of its elongated shape, being 16 miles long but only about three miles wide.  The name ‘Anguilla’ comes from the Spanish word ‘anguila’ which means eel.   (There is only one species of snake on the island – the Anguillan Racer).   It is a flat coral island, the most northerly of the Leeward Islands, and lies east of Puerto Rico and north of St Martin. Originally populated by Amerindian tribes from South America, Europeans began to explore the island in the late 1400s or early 1500s, amongst them the French, the Dutch, and the Spanish.   Christopher Columbus may have sighted it on his 1493 voyage.  The first recorded mention of it was by Thomas Southey in 1564.  In those days it was described as ‘filled with alligators and other noxious animals.’ In 1650 the British officially colonized Anguilla and it has always been a British colony since then despite raids from Carib Indians, the Irish and the French.  By 1653 Africans were being brought there, and forced to work as slaves.  For this reason, about 90% of Anguilla’s population today is of African descent. In 1745 and 1796 French invasions were resisted.  In 1824 Great Britain annexed it to St Kitts and Nevis, which caused protests from Anguillans in 1825, 1873, 1958 and 1966.  This led to the Revolution on 26 January 1967 as a result of which a British delegation of two MPs set up a temporary administration.  There was a confrontation in 1969, and finally, the Constitution of Anguilla was signed in London on 12 February 1976.  On 19 December 1980 Anguilla became a British Overseas Territory. Anguilla recognises The Queen as head of state.  Internally it is self-governing, while Britain handles its foreign relations and defence.  Until 1967 it flew the British ‘Union flag’, then for a time there was a flag with a mermaid design.  Now it is the only country in the world with a dolphin on its flag.  The national flag has a blue background with a British flag in the canton.  It also features Anguilla’s coat of arms in the fly, which contains three playful orange (or golden) dolphins leaping in a circle. They represent endurance, unity, and strength.  Below them, the turquoise-blue base represents the Caribbean Sea. The Anguillans speak English, more like the British than the Americans, while including their own words and phrases – ‘Booloonjee’ for an eggplant, ‘Boot-up’ - to collide, and ‘Apsy-clapse’ - meaning difficulty or confusion. There is no public transportation on Anguilla so visitors must hire a car or a bicycle, or walk.  There are only about 20 hotels, which ensures that it is less touristic than other Caribbean islands.   Being less well-known than other Caribbean islands, the 33 all-public beaches, with their powder-white sand is never crowded.  The most famous ones are Shoal Bay and Meads Bay. The island is popular with celebrities.  Chuck Norris, the American martial artist, used to live there in a seaside mansion.  Paris Hilton dubbed Anguilla her ‘secret island’; Denzel Washington bought a villa on Shoal Bay. The Valley The capital city is the Valley, with a population of just over 1,000, located in the middle of the island, near Crocus Hill.  It contains few examples of colonial architecture since the administration of Anguilla was moved to St Kitt's in 1825. Beyonce, Jay-Z, Michael Jordan, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Liam Neeson.  Sandra Bullock has been known to rent out a private villa by the beach. All in all, there are about 14,800 people living on Anguilla, and they are almost outnumbered by the goats that roam freely, even wandering around the luxury resorts. When The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh visited for 23 hours in 1994 some 2,000 islanders were entertained and a quarter of the population saw her.  She visited the Assembly House where Hon Hubert Hughes, then Leader of the Opposition, stirred up controversy by attacking the FCO. In September 2017 Hurricane Irma destroyed 90 per cent of the government buildings and electrical supplies, but by December the island had begun a major recovery.    

7.5 miles / 12 kilometres

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