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St Helena in the Commonwealth Games 2014

July 17, 2014 in News

On Friday 11th July, 10 athletes embarked on an 8,000+ mile journey from St Helena, destined to represent the island at the Commonwealth Games (CWG) 2014 in Glasgow. Led by the organiser Chef de Mission, Pamela Young, a Saint.

© SAMS

© SAMS

This will be the sixth year that St Helena has participated in the CWG and hopes are high for the team. In total 71 countries are participating this year which means the Saints need your support!

St Helena is being represented by the athletes Patrick Young, Jordie Andrews, Madolyn Andrews, Chelsea Benjamin, Ben Dillon, Lee Yon, Simon Henry, Ryan Benjamin, Vernon Smeed & Duane March.

Their journey to Glasgow includes taking the RMS St Helena to Cape Town, then flying to Glasgow, with a stop-off in Amsterdam. It’s hoped that the weather stays bright so that the shooting team can find some practice time in Cape Town. The main sporting disciplines that Saints excel at are not only in shooting but also in cricket, football, netball and rounders. Medals are hoped for all around, especially in shooting.

This will be the last year that athletes will have to travel via the RMS St Helena to the games, following the opening of St Helena’s first airport in 2016. Once the airport is open, Saints will have an opportunity to easily participate in other international competitions. It will also provide the opportunity for other athletes from across the world to enjoy the range of activities the island has to offer; diving, fishing, coastal swimming, golf, etc. A 50m rifle range is currently being constructed on the island.

It’s Festival of Walking 2014

July 10, 2014 in News, Tourism

The biannual Festival of Walking started on St Helena this week, which is a fortnight’s programme of walks to suit every walker; whether a beginner or seasoned hiker.

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The week started with a launch evening at the Consulate Hotel, which allowed walkers to mingle with walk leaders, ask questions about routes and most importantly sign up to participate. There was a good turn out and attendees commented that they had an enjoyable time.

This year a programme has been put together to include a larger selection of walks, including some of the popular Post Box walks.  All routes are suitable for all abilities and have been spread over three weeks.

A walk to South West Point kicked the programme off, led by Valerie Joshua. Despite a wet and muddy start to the route, walkers had spells of sunshine along the journey and were able to capture dramatic views of Manati Bay over to Speery Island and the Black Rocks.

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For those who would rather not travel “off the beaten path”, town walks are also available. Last Tuesday afternoon thirteen walkers took part in a walk through Jamestown led by Basil George.

Two visitors to the island, Alan and Barbara Wood, said the Town Walk was “A very good introduction to the history of St Helena and Jamestown.   I would recommend all visitors take it. There is so much to see in a small area.  Basil George was an excellent guide and he even slid down part of Jacob’s Ladder for us!”

There will be more walks happening over the next two weeks.

For further information about the walks available click here.

History made on St Helena: Placing of the Commemorative Stone

July 3, 2014 in Island Life, News

This week’s guest post is from Tourism Projects Manager, Merrill Joshua. At the weekend he witnessed significant history being made on St Helena with the placing of the Commemorative Stone at the St Helena Airport site.

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To mark the construction of St Helena Airport’s terminal building, a special Commemorative Stone was placed at the site, a local basalt rock – a key marker in the development of St Helena Airport. Placed by His Excellency Governor Capes to an audience of over 100 invited guests, Lord Bishop Richard Fenwick blessed the site and Prince Andrew School students buried a Time Capsule.

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This milestone in St Helena’s history was a touching one. The speeches made were relevant, delivered with passion and sincerity. Bringing the reality of St Helena’s changing history closer to home. The day summarised the past, efforts from the present and what result we hope to achieve in the future.

The burial of the time capsule was heartwarming and the contents therein will surely create a feeling of nostalgia to future generations who will unearth it in 100 years’ time. It should give the residents of St Helena in 2114 a feel for what the island has achieved since the construction of the airport. Especially as traditional St Helena recipes are read, reminders of St Helena’s endemic wildlife are shared and details of St Helena’s economic position are detailed.

All enjoyed the day and recognition was given to Basil Read for delivering the project on time and on schedule, giving merit to the Saints and others who make the workforce.

The Arts and Crafts Association presented HE Governor Capes and a select few with a limited edition vial pendent that was accompanied by an authenticity certificate and contained soil samples from the terminal building. A limited number of these souvenirs were on sale at the site.

Although the event lasted for just over 2 hours, it will make an ever-lasting impact on the island’s history. The day ran smoothly, the weather was bright and was an opportunity for Saints to reflect on the impending future of the island.

 

Small island with a gigantic footprint in endemic species

June 26, 2014 in Island Life

The British territories feature some of the most iconic environments on the planet, representing unique wildlife and opportunities for further species to be identified. Of all these locations, St Helena must be the jewel in the Commonwealth’s crown. Some even say the “Galapagos of the South Atlantic” as the island is home to a total of 2,932 species as identified by the RSPB.

From sea to land, perfect evolutionary conditions. Credit to Marc Lavaud

From sea to land, perfect evolutionary conditions. Credit to Marc Lavaud

The variety of altitudes, terrain and climate has provided the perfect evolutionary conditions for a vast range of endemic species on St Helena; 502 to be precise, with another 19 potentially endemic, 26 of which are globally threatened. Therefore a huge conservation effort is required to maintain St Helena’s wildlife.

So far conservation on St Helena is largely a community effort. Last September the island saw Peaks National Park re-launch as part of the National Conservation Areas. In addition, Marine Awareness Week is a humble reminder of the importance of the island’s marine environment. This time last year the island was in celebration after a long leaf hopper which hadn’t been spotted on the island for 137 years was re-discovered!

Credit to Mark Lavaud

The Peaks. Credit to Mark Lavaud

Despite the valuable conservation work on the island, there are still significant areas that require improvement. The marine environment in particular is largely unmapped, leaving species undetected and not accessed. The saddest moment in recent years was the extinction of the St Helena olive tree in November 2003. Other species remain on the brink of extinction, sometimes only survived by a couple of old trees.

St Helena Olive Tree

St Helena Olive Tree

Protecting St Helena’s environment is of upmost importance and a huge task. Our thanks go to the sterling work of the Saint Helena National Trust and the St Helena Nature Conservation Group. They are always looking for volunteers and welcome donations. If you want to help, visit this Facebook page.

To read more about conservation of the UK’s overseas territories download the RSPB’s latest reports.

Racing on St Helena, it’s Gravity Rush 2014!

June 19, 2014 in Island Life, News

On Sunday spectators gathered in less than favourable weather for the start of the much-anticipated Gravity Rush. A kart-racing event organised by SHAPE employees and volunteers. However, the weather did not dampen enthusiasm as a steady stream of spectators showed up and made their way to Bridge and Market Street.

Gravity Rush Prize presentation

Fifteen racers proudly paraded their go-karts of all shapes, colours and sizes whilst spectators cheered them on. Just over 1,000 people gathered to witness the event.

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The fifteen entrants for Gravity Rush 2014 were as follows:

  • Arrow (driven by Jordan Thomas)
  • Bring It On (built by Adrian John)
  • Green Machine (represented Thorpe’s)
  • Real Steel (driven by Craig Yon)
  • Flaming Eagle (built Roddy Yon)
  • Cool Running’s (represented Basil Read)
  • School running’s (represented Harford Primary School PTA)
  • Sentinel Flyer (represented SAMS)
  • No Guts No Glory (driven by Curtis Peters)
  • Chariots of Fire (represented the Salvation Army)
  • Bumble Bee (represented St Paul’s PTA)
  • Shapen Up (represented SHAPE)
  • Far Out (driven by Ricardo Fowler)
  • Go Fast Go Pro (represented SURE)
  • Ming (represented Prince Andrew School)

Commentator for the event, Merrill Joshua, encouraged the crowd to join in voting for the best go-kart, which resulted in chants and cheers for each racer. The louder the noise, the better the score! Cool Running’s won this category by popular demand scoring an overall 10 out of 10.

The eagerly awaited first eight races then began as follows:

  • Race 1: Arrow vs Bring it on                                              Winner: Bring It On
  • Race 2: Green Machine vs Real Steel                        Winner: Real Steel
  • Race 3: Flaming eagle vs Cool Running’s                                  Winner: Cool Running
  • Race 4: School running’s vs Sentinel Flyer             Winner: Sentinel Flyer
  • Race 5: No Guts, No Glory vs Chariots of Fire       Winner: No Guts No Glory
  • Race 6: Bumble Bee vs Shapen Up                              Winner: Shapen Up
  • Race 7: Far Out vs Go Fast Go Pro                                Winner: Far Out
  • Race 8: Ming automatically went through as there was no other go kart to race against.

Winners went onto compete against one another in the winners bracket, whilst the Losers of the races competed against one another.  This was great fun with a few crashes in-between, which added to the dramatic atmosphere. The team, Guts No Glory, took the lead with Shapen Up trailing closely behind. Thanks to clever manoeuvring, No Guts No Glory won the title of winner of Gravity Rush 2014!

2014 winner vs 2013 winner

SHAPE Manager, Martin Joshua, said that Gravity Rush was “Absolutely Amazing. I would like to thank in particular sponsors Solomon’s & Co, BOSH, RMS St Helena, Connect St Helena and the Police.  Huge thanks are also extended to all those involved (too many to mention) for making Gravity Rush 2014 such a success.”

In the words one of the spectators, “I thought the event was absolutely brilliant, the races was great, some of them actually put you on edge as they came speeding round the corner and some had you laughing at times.  I think SHAPE and everyone else involved did an excellent job planning this event and making it safer for the spectators.  I know we will definitely be looking forward to next year’s Gravity Rush.”

Going Remote on St Helena

June 12, 2014 in Island Life, Tourism

In March 2014 Travel Blogger, Iain Mallory, visited St Helena to explore and learn more about the Saint way of life. Today he has written a guest post for the Wirebird blog. You can read more posts from Iain Mallory about St Helena on his popular travel blog, Mallory on Travel.

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When the RMS St Helena departs Jamestown harbour for Ascension it brings the realisation that the lifeline to the world has been severed. For the next five days there will not be any way to leave St Helena, the isolation is complete.

This can apparently be slightly unsettling for many visitors, feeling isolated in the middle of the South Atlantic. However, I revelled in this feeling of remoteness, having spent several days sailing to the island, being cut-off from the outside just added to the adventure.

Iain Mallory-300-22By this stage I’d already had a chance to get about and explore, and was enchanted by the lush vegetation, stunning scenery, charismatic birdlife, and friendly character of the local people.

‘Saints’ as they are known had made all the other visitors feel welcome from the moment we’d stepped off the ship. They always seemed to have a friendly smile, happy to chat, and I’d been fortunate enough to meet several of the more colourful characters.

Dining with Saints at most of the islands eateries was a pleasure; enjoying casual, but great value meals at Ann’s Place or traditional meal at Wellington House. The Chinese restaurant was too good to pass up, but invitations to home cooked goat curry dinner with good company seemed even more preferable.

I was also lucky enough to have been granted an audience with Jonathon, the giant tortoise believed to be the oldest known living land animal. That’s a reptile with some claim to fame!

Iain Mallory-300-38In truth, the next week flew by. Crawling after the native wirebird, the island’s only indigenous bird, visiting forts with fantastic views, swimming with whale sharks (note my blasé comment, it’s nothing special to Saints), and hiking to pristine swimming holes like Lot’s Wife Pond.

The size of the island means it’s easy to fit in some adventurous exploring, and still manage the more usual tourist activities, such as visiting Longwood House, Napoleon’s tomb, and Plantation House.

The ship soon returns, and although it’s only eight days on the island, there’s a lifetime of memories. I couldn’t help wishing the ship were sailing off without me again, so I could go remote a little while longer.

 

Wirebird blog: Most Popular and Best Picks

June 5, 2014 in News

Can you believe it has already been one year since we launched the St Helena Wirebird blog? Over 50,000 visits later, this blog has become a one-stop shop for finding out the latest news from the island, providing travel information and insight into what life is like as a Saint.

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Here are the most popular posts so far, along with some of the editor’s best picks:

Most Popular

2 Years until St Helena has an airport
“It’s on target to transform St Helena and secure the island’s future, according to St Helena Government. With only two years to go before the opening of St Helena airport construction on the island is at full pace, and today we have received our first preview of what the airport layout will look like.”

Recipe for the famous St Helena Fish Cakes
“If you’re looking for a taste of St Helena, then look no further! The Island’s cuisine is wonderfully varied with Malay, British, and Chinese influences. Each dish has their own special ‘Saint’ twist, especially the spices and curries.” 

St Helena – it’s the tallest, biggest and oldest!
“From the tallest, biggest and oldest; St Helena is an extraordinary location that flaunts some of the world’s best-kept travel secrets. In this blog post we’ll take you on a journey exploring St Helena’s superlative signs, linking to some of our favourite past blog posts.”

The 7 Wonders of St Helena
“We might be small but our island features a number of natural attractions, holds the weight of an impressive history and boasts breathtaking scenery. Together these elements form the 7 wonders of St Helena, 7 reasons for why you should come to visit one day!”

St Helena Aerial Photos
“A selection of 2013 St Helena aerial photos captured by photographer Marc Lavaud.”

Editor’s Best Picks

The daily astonishment of the Log of the Watch
A guest blog written by popular author Niall Griffiths, who has six published books to date and also writes travel pieces. This is what brought him to our small island last month. Today he writes about what it was like travelling on the RMS St Helena.

Connoisseur’s guide to St Helena’s spirits
St Helena is one of the world’s best kept secrets and the ‘St Helena Distillery’ even more so. It really is the most remote distillery in the world! The distillery uses German-made Holstein spirit distilling equipment imported and installed in 2006 and is run by Head Distiller Paul Hickling.

The Oldest Saint
Jonathan is St Helena’s oldest resident, by far. It is estimated that Jonathan is between 170 and 200 years old, making him not just St Helena’s oldest Saint, but quite possibly the world’s oldest reptile.

St Helena through the eyes of… a Donkey Home

May 29, 2014 in Islander's Perspective, Tourism

Today we have interviewed Jodie Mills who runs the St Helena Donkey Home; an important conservation effort caring for the donkeys across the island.

St Helena Donkeys

Tell us a bit about yourself. How long have you lived on St Helena for and what is your role at the Donkey home? 
I have lived on St Helena for ‘Donkey’s Years’ well actually no, only three and half years but I couldn’t resist squeezing a donkey pun in somewhere! When I arrived on the Island in my new conservation job my new boss took me on tour and we drove past some donkeys in a field. He said it was such a shame that no one looked after them or used them for work anymore. This got me thinking; I had always wanted a horse when I was younger, now this was my chance to have 13 donkeys instead! So I went to see the governments Agriculture and Natural Resources Department who were over the moon that someone wanted to look after the donkeys and the St Helena Donkey Home was born!

What is the purpose of the Donkey Home?
The purpose of the Donkey Home is to: IMG_4101

  • Promote the welfare and wellbeing of all donkeys on the island by providing them a safe habitat, shelter and regular care.
  • Promote good animal care through training, education and awareness to prevent cruelty and suffering of the Island’s donkeys.
  • Rehabilitate the donkeys back to a working life in a variety of roles; from providing therapy for children, becoming a tourist attraction, to carrying endemic plants through difficult terrain.

We do this by:

  • Raising funds to improve the habitat of the donkeys and buy medical equipment / vet care.
  • Educating the public about how to care for domestic donkeys and those kept as ‘pets’.
  • Taking the donkeys on regular walks to help improve their physical and mental health.
  • Running education programmes for animal care, riding skills and eventually behaviour therapy.

Do you offer any activities for tourists visiting St Helena?
Yes, we have a regular donkey walk every Saturday morning which are very popular with locals and tourists alike and we also offer an eco tour with the donkeys around one of the most scenic areas of the island with tree planting and a picnic carried by the donkeys (and most often shared with the donkeys) thrown in too.

Our website is:
http://www.wikivillage.sh/st-helena-donkey-home

Our Facebook page is:
https://www.facebook.com/SaintHelenaDonkeyHome

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How many donkeys do you now have? Are you expecting any new additions this year?
We currently have 14 donkeys and have just gained two new donkeys, one which was in a terrible state that had been attacked by biting flies and minor birds to the point where there was no hair left on her legs. She is now recovering well. The other new addition is a lovely old boy called Prince, probably the oldest donkey on the island – around 40 years old! He struggled a little walking up the hill to his new home but when on the flat he was off like a rocket! We also have two pregnant mares who will be expecting later on in the year. Donkeys are pregnant for a whole year (I have recently had a baby and nine months was enough!) so a long time to wait for new arrivals…

What is the history of donkeys on St Helena?
In the past donkeys were an essential part of Island life; offering loyal service throughout many generations of our history.  As ‘helping hooves’ to the islanders, donkeys transported goods and people all around the Island for centuries. They serviced visitors and locals alike, forming the backbone to the successful flax industry of St Helena. After all, a donkey is stronger than a horse of the same size!

However, with the introduction of electricity, cars and the collapse of the flax industry, Donkeys found themselves out of work. Many people no longer wanted or could no longer care for their donkeys and the population plummeted from 1650 at the height of flax industry in the 1960′s to just 38 today.

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What is your passion behind caring for donkeys?
I have always loved donkeys and horses and spent many a summer holiday on Scarborough beach nagging my mum for another 50p for a donkey ride. To now have the opportunity to care for 14 donkeys is a real treat for me – I love it.

Is the airport development having an effect on the Donkey Home?
In May 2012 the donkeys on St Helena were in desperate need of a shelter as their paddock often gets very wet in the winter and all the donkeys suffer from seedy toe and thrush in their hooves. That month we happened to have a male donkey in and I named him Basil after the airport contractors Basil Reed. I arranged a meeting with the CEO and said, “We’ve had a baby donkey and named him Basil – would you like to build him a shelter?”… and they did!!! They did such an amazing job and now all the donkeys can enjoy a cosy nights sleep undercover. I’m just hoping Basil will get an invite to the opening of the airport…

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Is the Donkey Home currently fundraising for a cause? How can people get involved with the home from overseas? Can we adopt a donkey?!
The Donkey Home relies on donations, grants and the sale of merchandise.

Here’s how you can get involved:

  • Adopt a donkey – for £20 a year you will get regular updates on his/her progress, as you personally contribute to the medication, care and food of the donkey, with opportunities to care for your donkey yourself if you’d like to! When you adopt a donkey you receive a personalised certificate of gratitude, making great gifts for loved ones both overseas and on island!
  • Volunteer?  The St Helena Donkey Home needs volunteers with a range of skills; help with running fundraising events, website design, gathering donkey food, maintaining the shelter, transport…you name it, we need it!
  • Leave a legacy
  • Place a collection box in shops/pubs or other public amenities you may own.
  • Purchase donkey merchandise
  • Buy a bag of donkey poop (gift wrap available!)

Vote for the RMS St Helena in the Cruise International Awards

May 15, 2014 in Island Life, News

We’re delighted to announce that the RMS St Helena has been shortlisted in the UK’s Cruise International Awards, in their Adventure category. There is no doubt that travelling by the RMS St Helena is currently all part of the St Helena experience. Please show your support by voting us.

You can vote here. Voting closes on the 20th August.

The RMS St Helena seen in the distance.

The RMS St Helena seen in the distance.

Other nominees in this category include:

  • Azamara Club Cruises
  • Hurtigruten
  • Nobile Caledonia
  • Silversea
  • Voyages to Antiquity

We believe (with unequivocal bias!) that the RMS St Helena is the only nominee in this category that can boast a completely unique journey. The five days it takes from Cape Town on this, one of the only remaining Royal Mail vessels, is one of the reasons people embark on a voyage to St Helena. On Board the RMS you are not just another number, but become part of a family.

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Last year’s awards attracted over 24,000 votes and this year’s awards are likely to be even more popular. The awards are a celebration of everything that makes sea-travel the holiday of a lifetime.

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Here is a selection of our best posts about the RMS St Helena:

Preparing for the Bicentenary

May 8, 2014 in Island Life

Napoleonic history is an important part of St Helena. It is fortuitous that the airport opens almost at the start of the 6-year Bicentenary Commemoration period. The French Consul, Enterprise St Helena, St Helena Tourism, the St Helena Government, the Foundation Napoléon, and others, are working together to ensure the event is managed and maintained in a way that St Helena and Saints will benefit. Especially considering the increase in tourist numbers that will naturally occur with the opening of the airport.

Annual commemorative service – 5th May
Last Monday the annual commemorative service was held at Napoleon’s Tomb to mark the death of the French Emperor, 193 years ago. A similar commemoration took place at Les Invalides, Paris, where Napoleon’s body is now interred.

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Over seventy spectators gathered on the terraces above the Tomb. A respectful silence between The Last Post and Reveille, offered a “Moment de Memoire”, which was followed by representatives laying floral wreaths. Wreaths were laid on behalf of the French Nation, St Helena, the Foundation Napoleon and the island’s youth – represented by ten students that are learning French.

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French Consul, Michel Dancoisene-Martineau, said, “This is the first time we have held the ceremony with no RMS or cruise ship at the harbour, and it was a working day – so I am amazed at the turnout.  I see today as St Helena showing respect to the man I am here for, keeping the memory alive.”

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The location of Napoleon’s Tomb on St Helena was chosen by Napoleon himself. He was particularly fond of this valley, and sent servants to get water from the spring for his use on a daily basis.

There is no inscription on the Tomb. The French had wanted ‘Napoelon 1769-1821’. The British insisted that ‘Bonaparte’ should be added. In the end, it was decided to leave the stone blank.

About The Foundation Napoléon
The Fondation Napoléon (founded in 1987) is a registered charity committed to the encouragement of the study of and interest in the history of the First and Second Empires and the preservation of Napoleonic heritage. Director, Thierry Lentz, recently visited the island to oversee work on Longwood House – the Foundation being the primary funder for the project.

Save Longwood House Project
Within a few months the restoration of the Generals’ Apartments will be complete, and decoration of the interior and final exterior finishes will commence. Completion of work is timed in readiness to mark the auspicious occasion of 200 years since Napoleon’s arrival on the island; on the night of the 14/15 October 1815.

Longwood House April 2014

Longwood House April 2014

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Longwood House 2010

Restoring Furniture and Speaking French   
Prince Andrew School students are over a year into French classes. Extra curricular classes are offered to the community.Thirty major pieces of antique furniture are being restored in Paris, to be exhibited at Les Invalides, before they are returned to St Helena.
 Six Saints have been trained to restore and conserve furniture at a purpose built workshop at Longwood House, mentored by Amael Gohier, Europe’s leading expert in this field.One apprentice continues to restore and repair furniture with the goal of running his own business in the future.

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Credit to news@SAMS.sh

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Credit to news@SAMS.sh

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more information please visit: www.napoleon.org