Although the Channel Islands lie closer to France than England, their inhabitants are British citizens. They have, however, been self-governing since the 13th century. Each island’s distinctive history, culture and geography sets it apart not only from France and England but from its peers. The warming Gulf Stream nurtures the islands’ dynamic ecosystems and incredible variety of flora and fauna. Spring brings profuse wildflowers. The Le Noir Pré meadow blooms with 50,000 orchids! The Stream enables a wealth of colourful subtropical gardens. These include Jersey’s Grey Gables and La Maison des Prés, La Seigneurie on Sark’s walled garden, and the Eric Young Orchid Foundation. Local fauna includes Burhou Island’s important Atlantic Puffin colony.
The islands have a fascinating human history. Jersey, separated from France after the Second Ice Age, was settled during the Neolithic. The 6,000-year-old mound and dolmen at La Hougue Bie constitutes one of Europe’s finest Neolithic passage graves. Its entrance points directly east so that during the Equinox sunlight illuminates its deep inner chamber. La Hougue Bie Museum contains the ‘Jersey Hoard’, a vast collection of Iron Age and Roman coins. Pretty St Helier is named after Jersey’s first saint, a hermit martyred around 555. After King John lost Normandy, the islands were defended against French invasion by 13th-century Mont Orgueil Castle. Sark was uninhabited until Elizabeth I made Helier de Carteret ‘seigneur’ in 1565. During World War II the occupying Germans built vast defenses here. The long ‘Jersey Tunnels’ dug for munitions storage later became an underground hospital.
Victor Hugo wrote Les Misérables on Guernsey. Gerald Tickle wrote Appointment with Venus and author Gerald Durrell established the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and the Jersey Zoo. Most recently, Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows published The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. René Lalique’s utterly unique glass decoration in the Church of St Matthew will delight the eye. Jersey’s famous cheese, ice cream, pickled crab, the Guernsey Gâche and Sark’s famous lobster will tease tastebuds.
A unique study of five Channel Islands, featuring local experts who will explore each island's distinctive history, culture, geography and wildlife.