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Guernsey: Sark Ramsar

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Sark is a steep-sided island which, while it has some very good beaches, is better known as a place for walking or cycling around the dusty, unmade roads. The only motor vehicles here are tractors, while the most comfortable mode of transport is the horse and carriage. Access to the island is by sea only - no aeroplanes to disturb the peace and quiet - and the result is a place of legendary tranquility which many Guernsey people make a point of visiting at least once or twice a year. In addition to their agricultural uses, the tractors perform a valuable service in towing trailers full of visitors up from the harbour to the main shopping street, because it is a long, steep hill that might be fun to walk down but quickly loses its appeal on the ascent.

Sark is a gloriously natural place and now the proud possessor of a Ramsar site, a headland that includes the increasingly well-known Gouliot caves (as featured in the BBC Television series, Coast). This designation is described by the UK environment department, Defra, thus: 'The UN Convention on Wetlands, signed in Ramsar, Iran, in 1971, is an intergovernmental treaty which provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.'

The Gouliot caves have water flowing through for much of the day, and that water is beautifully clear, yet laden with food in the form of plankton, which makes this an ideal habitat for many species. This is the Bailiwick of Guernsey's third Ramsar site - it already had Lihou Island and L'Eree headland in Guernsey itself, along with Alderney's west coast and the Burhou islands.

This set of stamps celebrates creatures that inhabit the caves, plants that adorn the headland and one of the birds that enjoy the skies in the area.

Date of issue: 28 February 2008

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