LIFE ON THE ISLAND OF SARK
Sark lies six miles east of Guernsey (eight miles harbour to harbour), 14 miles north west of Jersey, and some 20 miles from France, in the Bay of St Malo.
The climate is equable, similar to Devon and Cornwall and Brittany, and frosts are infrequent. The average annual rainfall is about 32 inches.
Rather grey days with drizzle are fairly common in winter. The Island is exposed to winter gales from all quarters but we also get bright sunny days with very little wind.
Summer weather is often very pleasant with light winds and temperatures around 25 degrees Celsius.
Visit www.metoffice.gov.gg for further information on climate.
Regular communications are with Guernsey. The passenger boats run a frequent service during the season (April to mid October) every day, with one boat on Sundays. In winter (weather permitting) there is a daily return boat from Guernsey, and one or two trips weekly from Sark to Guernsey and back to enable residents to go shopping etc. There are also round trips on some Saturdays to allow sports fixtures.
There is a boat from Jersey 3-4 times a week between the beginning of April and the end of September.
Personal transport on the Island is limited to foot, bicycle or horse drawn carriage. The use of tractors is limited by licence to carriage of goods or for agriculture. There are unmade roads and paths.
There are excellent modern telecommunication and postal systems.
The residential population of Sark is around 600. In summer this rises to over 1000.
There is a surgery with a resident doctor in private practice, but for all other medical services patients must travel to Guernsey. A dentist visits Sark regularly during the season to carry out inspections and most work.
A tractor drawn ambulance is available to take stretcher cases to the harbour, where it will be met by the St John ambulance launch (the “Flying Christine”) from Guernsey.
There is no reciprocal agreement with the U.K. National Health Service.
Neither residents nor temporary workers or visitors are covered by the U.K. National Health Service or the Guernsey Health Service, so private health insurance is essential.
Schooling is available for island children from aged five to fifteen. Many children go to Guernsey or the U.K.for secondary education but, with the advance of new technology and improved facilities in school children are now able to study a modest range of GCSE courses. If secondary education is followed off-island, fees and other costs are the responsibility of parents.
The Church of St Peter on Sark is within the Anglican Deanery of Guernsey (in the Diocese of Winchester). There are regular services (led by the resident priest in charge) throughout the year.
Visiting Roman Catholic priests take mass once a month in St Peter’s Church.
There is a Methodist Church on the Island, with a resident Minister (under the authority of the Guernsey Methodist Church).
There is no mains water supply on Sark. Houses depend on wells, bore holes or roof-catchment.
There is no mains drainage on Sark. Dwellings drain into cesspits and septic tanks – householders are responsible for their adequate maintenance. Clearance of these is available through the island public works for which there is a charge.
Electricity is generated on the Island at 240v AC, but it is expensive, as is oil and bottled gas.
Digital TV reception is good in most areas. There are no terrestrial channels available.
Tenure of property is complex. There is no true freehold; all land being held in perpetual fief from the Seigneur. Each of the forty properties (tenements) into which the Island is divided (as well as a few other holdings in perpetual fief) can only pass as intact blocks of land by inheritance to one heir, unless sold outside of the family.
Log on to www.gov.sark.gg for information on the Constitution of Sark.
The relationship between Landlord and Tenant is different from that in the United Kingdom, and any prospective purchaser or lessee is strongly advised to consult a Guernsey Advocate familiar with Sark Law.
Only persons owing allegiance to the English Crown may hold land in fief.
Smaller houses and bungalows can sometimes be had on leased land, but personal enquiry is essential. New building is limited to residents of at least 15 years standing.
Furnished accommodation in summer bungalows and chalets is sometimes available for the winter but personal inspection is strongly recommended as what is suitable for the Sark summer may not be sufficient for the winter.
Tenements and leaseholds are generally handled by Estate Agents in Sark and on Guernsey.
There is one estate agent on the island – contact them on www.sarkestateagents.com for further details.
BANKING AND TAXATION
The Island is within the UK currency area (BPS – sterling), with UK, Guernsey and Jersey currencies being used.
There are two banks (the NatWest and the HSBC) on the Island, situated at the Collenette (the entrance to the Avenue), open Monday to Friday. There is no automated cash distributor (ATM.)
The Island is financially independent of the UK and Guernsey. There is no income tax, but there is a tax on world wide assets and a property tax. Prospective residents are advised to consult “The Sark Tax Assessor” at the Committee Offices, Sark or Tel: 01481 832268.
There are no Death Duties or Capital Gains Tax, but the inheritance laws, both for Real Estate and Personalty, are peculiar to Sark.
SHOPPING FACILITIES etc.
There are a number of small shops selling a range of foodstuffs. Some Guernsey shops will ship to Sark.
Servicing for electrical and other equipment is available.
There are several local building firms but building costs can be expensive as they reflect the cost of freighting materials from Guernsey.
Cost of living comparisons are difficult – spirits and tobacco are cheaper than in the UK but foodstuffs and other goods are inclined to be more expensive.
Seasonal work is usually available and some long term employment for skilled workers, generally in the building trade.
There is no employment agency, no unemployment benefit, no national insurance and no old age pension.
For more information please contact Sark Tourism, Sark, Channel Islands GY10 1SB – or telephone 00 44 (0)1481 832345/fax 832483, or visit the website www.sark.co.uk for up to date news, events, travel information etc.