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The Island that Time Forgot
Island of Sark
Member Name: pussycat
Island of Sark
Date: 19/09/00, updated on 19/09/00 (7114 review reads)
Advantages: Peaceful, great scenary, cheap prices, friendly people
Disadvantages: Only accessible by boat, can be very windy
So what makes Sark unique? Firstly, it has no cars - transport is by horse, bicycle, tractor or public transport (horse and carriage!). As there are no cars, there are also no roads, just a series of dirt tracks and numerous short cuts across the fields - the short cuts are regularly used because there are no fences (not even to keep cattle in) and the people are so friendly that nobody ever minds if you pop across their property.
Talking of property ownership, Sark is based upon a feudal system whereby the island is leased from the Crown by the Siegneur, Michael Beaumont (the 'King' of Sark) and is divided into forty portions, one of which is the Seigneurie (King's palace). The other portions are held by the 'men of Sark' who have a duty to bear arms in defence of the island and numerous other duties. That doesn't mean that only forty household live on Sark as each portion has various houses and shops built on it which the landownder can sell or lease in the usual way.
Sark's administration is headed by the Seigneur and there are two official posts - constable and assistance constable. Each man of Sark has to hold the post of constable once in his lifetime. A new holder is chosen every year and takes the post of assistance constable to see what is required for the main post. After a year, the constable steps down, the assistant becomes constable and a new assistant is appointed. There is not a great deal of work for the constable as the island is virtually free of crime (except in the tourist season). If a major crime is committed, the constable has the power to close the island to prevent anyone leaving or arriving (in
cluding tourists) until the situation is resolved. The last time this happened was in the 1980s when the jewellery shop was burgled - after a few days the jewellery was returned and the island re-opened.
There is a prison which can hold two people. Those convicted of serious crimes are usually transferred to Guernsay as the facilities in Sark prison are rather basic. Sark can make and adminster its own laws to a certain degree but is largely dependent upon Guernsay. Nevertheless, it sounds a pretty good place to be in prison as you don't actually have to stay there - you can go about your normal everyday business provided you wear a shirt with "PRISONER" on the back - possibly an early version of Labour's 'naming and shaming' proposals!
You do have to watch out for the laws though as you can still be hanged for stealing cattle. As there are few fences, the situation can be somewhat fraught. I remember staggering back from one of the island's four pubs muttering 'sod off - you'll get me into trouble' to an inquisitive cow who had decided to follow the strange people wandering across its field in the middle of the night.
Moving to pubs, well, there aren't many but the island is pretty small and you never seem to lack a place to take a drink. They have a stange rule that you can only buy alcohol on Sunday if you have also bought a meal worth more than £1. So a couple of the hotel's specialise in £1.01 sandwiches and soups to get around this. The main selling point of Sark's pubs is how incredibly cheap the alcohol is. It was still less than £1 a pint last time I went. The same is true of cigarettes, perfume, electrical goods and jewellery. In fact, the only thing which actually was expensive was milk and other dairy products.
You need to be a bit wary of the local milk as it is not routinely pasteurised and can have some very stange looking lumps in it. I refused to d
rink any the whole time I was there (three months) and once resorted to opening hundreds of little tubs of 'non milk disgusting stuff' just so I could have a bowl of cornflakes. Sark milk is supposed to taste lovely but it looked extremely off-putting.
There are not many shops and the whole place has managed to remain 'little village-esque' despite the massive influx of tourists every year. One shop specialises in jewellery made from local gemstones, especially amythests which can be found on the beaches - I spent hours looking but never found any(Dixcart Bay is supposed to be the best place to look). Another essential purchase is the handmade Caragh chocolates which put Thornton's in the shade and are a fraction of the price.
Places to visit include La Coupee which joins Sark to Little Sark. The 300 foot precipice overlooking Convanche Bay was built by German prisoners of war after the island was liberated by the Chelsea pensioners (who have the freedom of Sark and visit every year). Once on Little Sark, you can visit The Pot which is the remains of the copper and silver mines. Gouliet caves are also worth a visit as some of the caves are massive and extremely beautiful and several are covered the anemonies. The network of caves is massive though so don't wander off - seriously, people have disappeared in there.
The horse and carriage tours of the island are a great way to see the sights and if you get one of the older drivers they will be more than pleased to recount the history of the islands and to point out the places of interest.
Getting to Sark is remarkably easy. You can fly to Guernsay from Southampton for about £55 pounds (takes about half and hour) and then take the boat to Sark for about £20 return. Despite its reputation for being an expensive place to stay, this is simply not true as B&B averages at £18 per person per night. The hotels are more expensive but not excessively so espe
cially at the end of the season. I recommend the Dixcart (but I'm biased as that was where I worked) or La Sorbonnerie.
I worked on Sark for three months as a vac job and loved every minute of it. The locals are extremely friendly and love to get to know new people and there is always a range of activities going on to go to - concerts, dances, quizes, local history lectures - none of it vastly exciting but you do get used to the gentle pace of life. If you need to escape to somewhere a bit more lively, Guernsay is only a half hour boat trip away and the locals will usually let you hitch a ride if they're going which is cheaper than the official boat. (don't be alarmed if someone offers to take you to 'the mainland' in an extremely small boat - they only mean Guernsay, not England)
So, in summary, Sark is a great holiday destination - its a little old-fashioned community with some great beaches, cheap prices and wonderful scenary. Alternatively, its a great place to work for three months if you fancy something different with the added bonus that there is no income tax!