After settling into island life, we’ve spent the week talking to people and gathering information for our report. Some days we’ve travelled across the island in a Land Rover, other times we have visited the people in the offices in Jamestown, all within close proximity of each other. At every corner of our travels the scenery has been incredible; I don’t think any of us could get sick of the enchanting views.
Here’s a brief account of last Thursday; a ‘day in the life’ of a scoping trip in St Helena:
The journey into the office in Jamestown is a quick walk. I say office – it’s actually in the historic castle, which houses many of the government functions. One thing that we have here is an internet connection, so important contact with people in the UK has not been lost! The Island maybe remote but the internet has definitely shrunk the world!
Our first meeting of the day was with the Geographic Information System (GIS) team who have previously taken us on familiarisation and survey trips across the island. They are a young team of surveyors who use up-to-date technology to map the parcels of land. Records are also kept on old manual maps. With the GIS team, we discussed co-ordinates, contours and map transformations.
Next meeting was with the Land Register Office which consists of two members of staff, Zoe and Gina. We listened to the finer details of their processes. It was amazing to hear that not only do they register the land on St Helena, but they also draft all deeds as well. Although the system is still paper-based, the simplicity of the processes involved is refreshing and there were some good examples of best land registration practice. The people here are very knowledgeable and really friendly.
Next stop was to the post office. Not to get stamps, but to talk to Karen about ‘Addressing’. We gleaned that there is not really any postal service on the island as people come into the post office to collect their post. The post office plays an important role in communications and is also a part of the Land Registry process, as it’s where any land registration fees are paid.
Back to the castle afterwards to write up our findings and to give a quick update to the Registrar of Lands, who also undertakes many other judicial roles. He then talked us through a forthcoming land dispute and showed us how much easier it would be if the existing system was computerised and all parties had access to the relevant information.
Finally some preparation for our meeting with the IT team tomorrow.
Tonight we were invited with the St Helena Land Registry team to meet His Excellency, the Governor of St Helena, Mr Mark Capes and his wife at his residence, Plantation House. The Governor welcomed us to his home and described our visit as a great example of co-operation within government. Many other government officials were present including the Attorney General and many of the other people we have met during the week. It was great to have some members of the GIS team there as well.
Plantation House is also the home to the oldest living animal in the world, Jonathan the tortoise, who is over 181 years old. Although we didn’t see him on this occasion, we were very lucky to see him close up on a further day visit to the area and took pictures of him moving regally around his paddock in front of Plantation House.
All in all a great day; met some interesting people and we really feel welcome on St Helena.
Find out more about the work of Land Registry’s International Unit.