Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Channel Islands and Isle of Man

The Channel Islands are a group of islands in the English Channel. Although they lie only about 10 to 30 miles (16 to 48 kilometres) off the coast of France, the islands have been attached to the English Crown since 1066. The Isle of Man lies in the Irish Sea midway between England and Ireland. Great Britain has controlled the Isle of Man since 1765. But British laws do not apply to the island unless it is specifically named in the legislation.

The Channel Islands. The six main islands of the Channel Islands are Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, Sark, Herm, and Jethou. Along with numerous smaller isles, the islands cover 75 square miles (195 square kilometres). The total population of the Channel Islands is about 130,000. English and French are the official languages and English is used most, but many islanders speak a French dialect that varies from island to island.

The islands, which have been largely self-governing since the 1200s, are divided into two ad-ministrative units. A lieutenant governor assigned to each unit represents the British monarch and handles international affairs. Four of the islands — Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, and Sark — have their own parliaments to regulate internal affairs.

Several of the islands have their own distinguishing characteristics. For example, Jersey, the largest of the islands, is known for its cows and for its sweaters, which are often called "jerseys". In the 1600's so many men abandoned their farmwork to knit the jerseys that a law was introduced to ban knitting in the summer months.
Alderney and Guernsey are known for their cattle, and Guernsey is also noted for its fine tomatoes grown in greenhouses.

Sark, the smallest self-governing unit in the United Kingdom, has a democratic form of government headed by a seigneur, or feudal lord. The use of cars is prohibited on Sark, and the people travel by horse-drawn carriage or bicycle. However, the island is only 3 miles (4.8 kilometres) long and 1 1/2 miles (2.4 kilometres) wide.

The leading industry in the Channel Islands is tourism: the pleasant beaches and historic landmarks draw many visitors. The mild climate and fertile soil help make farming important as well. Farmers grow fruits, vegetables, and flowers, and raise cattle. Banking and other financial services are also major economic activities, especially on Jersey.

A dependency of the British Crown, the Isle of Man is an island in the Irish Sea, about halfway between England and Ireland and about 20 miles (32 kilometres) south of Scotland. The island has an area of 227 square miles (588 square kilometres) and a population of about 65,000. The people speak English, and some also speak a Celtic language called Manx.

A representative of Great Britain oversees the island's foreign affairs. However a 1,000-year-old parliament called Tynwald Court regulates the island's concerns.

Crowds of tourists visit summer resorts on the Isle of Man, and its international motorcycle race, held each June, draws many enthusiasts. In addition to tourism, important industries include agriculture and fishing. Many new residents and industries have settled on the island since 1961, when the Isle of Man greatly lowered its taxes.