THE ISLAND OF HERM
Auction Particulars and Contract of Sale, Tuesday 29th July 1884


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“It is not easy for a stranger to trace the cause of so extensive a shell beach at this particular part of the Channel. There is nothing of the kind elsewhere in the whole group of the Islands, although at Vazon and other bays in Guernsey, and St. Aubin's Bay, St. Ouen's Bay, and elsewhere in Jersey, there are not wanting sands of considerable extent. The shell beach of Herm is quite a different thing from these sands, which are composed of quartz or of pounded granite.”

“A careful consideration of the course of the tidal wave, and the circumstances under which it passes through the two channels of the Great and Little Russel, will, however, explain this anomaly. While a part of the main wave sweeps towards the north-east through all the channels, that portion which has reached the French coast, being turned backwards, produces a north-westerly wave running along the coast of the Cotentin, and expanding when past the rocks north of Jersey, The north of Herm is the point of land where there would be slack water, from the meeting of these currents a short distance to the north; and a submerged island between this and Herm effectually protects the coast from any eddy that might otherwise disturb the shelly sands once accumulated. The shell sand being lighter, accumulates at the tail of the drift.”

“Traces of copper ore are said to have been found in veins in the granite of Herm; and mining operations were at one time commenced. The chief mineral product of the island is, however, its granite.”

“So long ago as the middle of the fifteenth century we learn from documents that means were taken for the supply of religious instruction in Herm, proving that the population was at that time very much larger than at present. Even of late years, however, there have been frequent and great fluctuations in this respect, according as at different times the resources of the island have been made use of or neglected.”

“The last important works were carried on about thirty years ago.” (The work was published in 1865).

“The owner of the island at that time had entered into a speculation to supply granite, both for building and paving, and for this purpose a harbour and pier were constructed, an iron tramway laid down, houses built, and other conveniences and appliances for a fixed population introduced. Stone was at first extracted in very large blocks, and favourable reports were made of its beauty and quality. After a time, however, the owner disposed of his interests to a company; and shortly afterwards the company was dissolved, and the quarries were abandoned.”

“In former times, there would seem to have been much game of various kinds in Herm. Thus in 1716, an inquest was held ‘for the discovery of certain persons who had killed stags, roebucks and pheasants, on the island contrary to the ordinance;’ and it is recorded that the last two deer were killed about the year 1773. Rabbits are common, and the soil is eminently favourable for them.”

“Small as it is, many hours may be spent with advantage in this island, and its resources are by no means exhausted in a single visit. To see all that it contains of interest, several days would be needed, even without taking into consideration the shell beach, which to the conchologist, is absolutely inexhaustible. The appearance of the island at high and low water, is so different, that it would hardly be recognised as the same by an occasional visitor; and to see this difference to advantage involves several visits.”

“Herm has good fresh water in natural springs, and in two places there is running water. Fresh water may be seen trickling down within some of the quartz veins traversing the granite; and no doubt a supply might be obtained from wells sunk into the solid rock.”

“Then” (as regards the islands generally), “of song birds, the thrush and blackbird, the skylark, the linnet, the goldfinch, the chaffinch, and others, are common. The nightingale has not been certainly recognised in any other island than Sark. The cuckoo comes as in England, about the middle of April, and is heard everywhere. The starling is a regular winter visitor. Swallows and martins appear as in England.”

“The storm-petrel breeds in large numbers at Burhou - a few on other rocks near Alderney, and occasionally on the rocks near Herm. These are the only places in the Channel Islands where they breed, although seen and occasionally killed in all.”

 
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