Obituary: Major Peter Wood

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The Independent Culture
PETER WOOD brought joy to thousands of people by transforming one of the smallest of the Channel Islands into a mini paradise. As the tenant of Herm Island he saw his vision of a small, self-supporting community become a reality. A 15-minute boat ride from Guernsey, Herm has one hotel, self-catering cottages, a campsite and no cars. Here visitors from near and far find peace and tranquillity.

During the Second World War Herm was under the control of the German forces, who made regular patrols from Guernsey. Only a caretaker was living on the island.

Peter Wood acquired the tenancy of Herm after the war and, with his wife Jenny, worked closely with the States of Guernsey to improve its standards. Initially it was looked upon as a playground for Guernsey people, but it was not long before tourists from the UK and beyond discovered its charm. Over all this reigned "King Peter" - a charming character who when in his tweeds looked the typical country squire.

Born in New Zealand in 1915, Alexander George Wood was brought up on a sheep farm in the North Island. But in his teens he moved to Wiltshire. He joined the Territorial Army in 1938, and the Royal Engineers at the outbreak of the Second World War. He rose in the ranks to major, and it was during hostilities that he met his wife, Jenny Appleward. They were married after the war ended and set up home in Yorkshire.

The couple, who by then had two small children, moved to Herm in June 1949, where they further increased the family by four. At the outset they looked at some of the ruins on Herm and believed that they had the tenacity to transform the place into a holiday retreat. While their young played on the beaches, the parents set about creating their dream. A working farm was established, telephone communications set-up and the Manor House and St Tugual's Chapel restored. Their hard work was rewarded by boatloads of day trippers arriving from Guernsey.

In 1980 the running of the island was handed over to their son-in-law Adrian Heyworth and daughter Pennie. Both have followed the same pattern of development, closely aware of the need to guard the natural environment.

In old age, Peter Wood stayed on in Herm, regularly walking its paths and admiring the wide sweep of the Shell Beach lapped by the Gulf Stream, and the sea stretching east to the French coast.

The people of Guernsey appreciated his careful conservation. On Herm visitors can roam freely, with no unfriendly "Keep Out" signs. There are no regular police officers stationed on the island. If any are wanted they travel from Guernsey by ferry launch. With no hospital on Herm, the marine ambulance Flying Christine is called from Guernsey. Fifty-five members of staff find employment on Herm over the year.

Alexander Gough Wood, farmer: born Hamilton, New Zealand 4 April 1915; married 1946 Jenny Appleyard (died 1991; three sons, three daughters); died Herm 29 September 1998.