Wednesday, September 02, 2009

And back to normality

School restarted this morning - well for three of us anyway.

Nigel has been back at work over a week but Sarah doesn't return to 6th Form College until Monday 14th

However the two younger ones and I are back into everything that a new school year brings and steadily on the downhill slope to autumn and winter

The summer break this year seemed very short

We went away slightly later than we usually do which only left us one full week of holiday after our return and the house has been full of a succession of guests since then - maybe that contributed to this feeling - it's certainly my excuse for not getting round to blogging until now anyway

Our holiday saw Nigel, Sarah and I revisiting a place we last went to sixteen years ago although Nigel did manage a fleeting visit a couple of years ago for a funeral so not the best reason to visit the island. For the two youngest it was their first visit to one of Nigel's favourite places.
Sark is a small island making up one of the Channel Islands which belong to Britain but sit very close to the French coast

All the Channel Islands are beautiful but Sark has the peculiar quality of being a place with no cars

The only way to get around the island, which measures 3 miles by 1.5 miles, is either on your own two feet, by bicycle or in a horse-drawn carriage

There are a few tractors on the island for essential work but no other motorised transport (unless you include the couple of invalid scooters ridden by some of the more infirm and elderly residents)

Because there is little in the way of motorised traffic the island has a very laid back, sleepy feel to it and is a wonderfully relaxing place to visit to chill out and relax

Nigel's family have long had connections with the island. His mother and her siblings holidayed there regularly as children just after World War II. Grandpa retired to the island in 1961 and Nigel's aunt and subsequently her niece (one of his cousins) have run the island's post office for several decades

To whet your appetite here are a few shots of the island and its way of life

The island is a 300ft high block of granite raised up out of the English Channel which makes for stunning coastal views

There are two parts to the island, Sark and Little Sark which are joined by a 300ft high isthmus - La Coupee - with a walkway across the top. This permanent structure atop the ridge was only constructed by German prisoners of war at the end of World War II - can you imagine negotiating the crossing in a high wind prior to its construction - it was not unheard of for people to crawl across on all fours in the winter storms. Incidentally horse-drawn carriage passengers still have to get off and walk across letting the carriage cross separately

And a view of Grande Greve - the beach on the western side of La Coupee - all the beaches have a climb down and back up again

Just the place for gathering a jelly fish in a discarded childs beach toy

Havre Gosselin - one of the lesser used harbours on the west side of the island - usually only brought into service when the weather is too rough to land at the islands main jetty and harbour on the eastern side of the island. However some of the many yachts which drop anchor around the island will also use it to come ashore.
Nick high up on the cliffs above Havre Gosselin - who's the King of the Castle?

Sark is far closer to France than England and sadly the original Norman Patois language is dying out - however it still remains in the names of places around the island

We were so lucky with the weather - after a couple of days of misty sea fret at the start of the holiday the sun shone and temperatures soared. However you can tell from this tree that the winter storms have their own way of shaping the island
Sarah soaking up some of those rays on one of the cannons on the Eperquerie Common to the north of the island with the neighbouring islands of Guernsey, Herm and Jethou in the background
Sarah and Nick had the very priviledged opportunity to ride on the back of a driving carriage similar to the one the Duke of Edinburgh races. It's owned by one of the island's residents and Sarah said the speed the horses pulled it at was absolutely breathtaking
Lou spent a lot of her time fishing with her younger cousin and managed to even catch a few now and then
Everywhere was inundated with butterflies

And here's the stunningly beautiful Jersey Moth which has bright orange tips to its wings when extended
A view of the Seigneurie - the home of the Seigneur who is the island's ruler - from across the top of the maze at the end of the Seigneurie Gardens. The last time we were there they had just planted this maze - now we can only just see over the top

Our older two certainly found the centre - and are probably sharing a joke about their parents still struggling to reach the middle

The Seigneurie Gardens are open to the public and very beautiful - the hydrangeas had to be seen to be believed - the range of colours was amazing

My favourite - clematis - rambling through the dahlias (my least favourite! - harbourers of earwigs, yeauchhhh!!!!)

A busy bee unknowingly pollinating a stunning white passionflower
And another of my favourites - this Osteospermum Whirligig always reminds me of the Seigneurie Gardens - I loved it the minute I set eyes on it during our last visit - I have the cream version in my garden now and keep on the lookout for this pink one to join it. I think the Seigneur might have had something to say if I'd dug this one up to bring home :o)))

One of the smaller carriages available for hire to tour the island - all the drivers have to do an island version of The Knowledge to give visitors a comprehensive guide as they drive them round
Of course, on an island with no motor vehicles apart from tractors, how else would you pull the ambulance to take patients down to the harbour and across on The Flying Christine, the Channel Islands emergency boat, to the hospital on Guernsey about an hours journey away. Nigel's cousin's daughter was almost born on the boat on the way to the maternity unit.

The main church on the island - this day there was a visiting brass band playing outside in the sunshine
The island post office which is owned by Nigel's cousin with the distinctive blue pillar box for the mail outside

And here is the island prison with Alan, the current Constable in the doorway - the post of Constable is an elected role which changes each year and is held by one of the residents - there are two cells inside which are seldom used, usually only if someone is more than a bit worse for wear to drink
We thought it would be fun to lock Sarah up in one of the cells - fortunately Alan was happy to let her out

Here's Lou after a lovely meal out one evening at a local hostelry

And the two oldies taking a breather on the walk down to the harbour on our journey home
Finally a farewell to the island................. until the next time


Nancy said...

What a lovely travelog! I'd been missing you...

sewprimitive karen said...

Wow, I LOVE those pictures. Your kids are great. And the ambulance that is designed to be pulled by a tractor, wow, love it. Thank you for posting.

Chookyblue...... said...

what a wonderful rugged beautiful place........thanks for sharing the pics.........

AnnieO said...

It's been a pleasure visiting the Channel Islands with you! We have Channel Islands here too but they are uninhabited and are a National Park. Your holiday sounds very low key and restful, with no rushing from one place to another. Sorry it ended too soon!

Meggie said...

What a lovely vist to the Island of Sark! I love that there are no cars or noisy vehicles there. what bliss!

Sew Create It - Jane said...

Sounds delightful! I'm all relaxed just reading you account of your holiday! Looks like you had great weather. BTW, how do you get to the island if there are no cars? Is there a big car park somewhere? ;o)

We go back to school and work next Tuesday...grumble grumble...I'm not quite ready yet!

Gina said...

Love the photos. I think Sark is definitely going on the place to visit list

Love and hugs GIna xxx

sewkalico said...

A lovely holiday story! great pictures and wonderful weather!!

Ali Honey said...

I enjoyed your holiday thanks for all the photos.
I hope your school term goes well.

andsewitis Holly said...

What a wonderful island and stunning views! I know your summer seemed short but you had a lovely one I'd say. :)

Juliann said...

What a lovely getaway - I am putting the Channel Islands on my list of places to go :)
I agree about getting back to normality with the school year back in swing. Something about the routine changes everything.

Clare said...

Obviously I've heard a lot about Sark because of the German occupation in WW2, but I've never seen photos of it. It's beautiful.

We're back to school with a bang after 8+ weeks of being constantly on the go. I'm exhausted and guests are still arriving! Alex has suddenly realised that This Is It! Brevet's this year and she hasn't got a minute to breath!

Tanya said...

What a lovely vacation! Thank you for all the pictures. Your family made some great memories!

Cascade Lily said...

Oh Anne what an amazing place for a holiday! You lucky ducks. Just extraordinary and soooooo different to Australia in every way! Great photos too.