The Friends of Hilbre Newsletter 
Volume 1, Issue 25 - Online version

main menu

Open Days.
Plan Your Visit.
How to Join.
MIU Events.
Volunteers' Work.

Inside this issue:
Contacts and Tides.
The Work of the Volunteers.
7th June - Task Report.
Brackenitis - a syndrome observed in labourers on Hilbre Island.
31st August - Task day with a buffet lunch.
Call for Volunteers to join the committee {co-opted}.
Local History Course.
Heritage Days: Hilbre Open Day, Seal Watching & Mobile Information Unit: 14th & 21st September.
The New Composting Toilets.
Safety Notice.
Latest Newsletter.



'On the Sands at Hilbre Island' (postmarked 1907)

The Friends of Hilbre e-mail:

Tides and Information
Hilbre Islands Local Nature Reserve Ranger: 0151 1632 4455

Wirral Country Park Ranger Service 0151 648 4371/3884

North Wirral Coastal Park 0151 678 5488

Metropolitan Borough of Wirral Web Site:

If anyone has information, or photographs, or postcards regarding Hilbre from the past and would like to share them please contact:

Back to 'Inside this issue'.

The work of the Volunteers

               Telegraph Station.  Seal Watching with members.
         Dry Stone Walls.  Mobile Information Unit.

We continue to run a number of Work Days on the Island. These are in addition to the days that we staff the Interpretative Centre in the Telegraph Station, providing access to the public displays about the history and natural history of Hilbre.

Usually on the same day as the Open Days at the Telegraph Station, there is ‘Seal Watching’, a popular activity. Some members have been trained to use the telescope which we bought last year; this enables people to get a good close-up view of the seals basking on the Hoyle Bank in the estuary. To enhance the experience for the public, the volunteers have also become experts on Atlantic Grey Seals, so they can answer questions and provide lots of information. This generates a good deal of interest among the visitors.

Meanwhile, back on the mainland on the same days, the Mobile Information Unit (MIU) will be parked somewhere, mostly on the car park by the Marine Lake in West Kirby. This is also staffed by a highly knowledgeable group of volunteers. The information provided to the passers-by is in many forms. Much of it is free but there are also items for sale, helping to bring in some funds.

The work days on the island take place over the tide. We go out to Hilbre before the tide comes in: we get on with the tasks until the tide ebbs and then we all go home again feeling thoroughly chuffed!

The Open Days and MIU days take place over a low tide. On these days, you can visit the MIU first, and then walk out to the Island to watch the seals, spend some time in the Interpretative Centre and take in the beauty of Hilbre.

Allen Burton

Back to 'Inside this issue'.

7Th June - Task Report

On June 7th we may have set the record for the number of volunteers who turned out: 17 in all! The weeding continued by the single storey building, keeping several people going all day. The single storey building needed a lot of sorting and cleaning to be fit for the students in the summer.

The walling team added a few more important yards to the protection of the topsoil on the western side of the island. We moved our tools from their original home in the Hayloft to where the public toilets used to be.
At the end of the day, we did a patch of Dry Stone Walling to repair a place where it had fallen. I think I can say that everyone was pleased and satisfied with the days work.

Allen Burton

Back to 'Inside this issue'.

Brackenitis - a syndrome observed in labourers on Hilbre Island:
A volunteers experience in bracken pulling!

Mending the gate by the Gazebo Plot    Working hard to flatten the bracken
The gang at work

The writer was recently invited to join a group of workers from Wirral who had been drafted to this part of the undisturbed archipelago lying in the northernmost part of the Dee estuary. It is customary periodically to move groups of workers over to the island to deal with excessive growths of pteridium aquilinium (bracken) which threatens the other plant life, particularly heather. As a botanist, I therefore had an interest in their work.

Over the years it has become apparent that the only effective treatment is to pull the bracken from the ground manually. It has also been observed that those who do the work are subject to a number of disadvantages. These include:-

a. Chronic shortage of sleep arising from the need to work within the times of the tide.
b. Bruising of the buttocks when caused by impact with the ground or falling backwards
when a bracken frond suddenly loses its roothold.
c. Lacerated skin on the hands when mistaking a briar for a bracken frond: (use gloves!).
d. Fatigue brought about by pressure from fellow workers to achieve maximum output.

When questioned by the writer, all the workers present admitted to having been affected by some or all of the elements of the syndrome but they had developed their own remedy which they followed without exception. This was to remain on the island as long as possible and enjoy the unique environment which it offered.

They maintained their group structure to ensure a continuation of the work despite the absence of monetary reward and actually looked upon the island as their friend. They were clearly not keen on my idea of trying to grow a bracken-resistant type of heather, saying it would deprive them of their opportunity to protect the island environment and undermine their reciprocal role as friends of the island. The writer has not pursued the matter further, preferring to join the group on their next excursion.

Achri Sgitt FBP

Back to 'Inside this issue'.

31st August - Task Day with a buffet lunch:

Intrepid Task Day volunteers!

Rain, rain and more rain! Yet 18 volunteers turned out to work on Hilbre! Pointing of Dry Stone Walling continued, bracken was pulled out and burned and litter was collected from around the island. Barbara, bless her, had prepared a buffet for everyone to enjoy, this we ate in the refurbished Study Centre facility, which had probably been built for use as a stable in the Victorian era. The Study Centre is now available for group bookings and courses – for information please contact the Ranger Service.

The Mayor of Wirral officially opened the Study Centre on 5th May 2008
look for the plaque inside

  Call for volunteers to join the committee (co-opted)

We are looking for members willing to fill two particular roles.

Risk assessment.

Members’ representative: This person would be the point of contact for members wishing to bring issues to the committee.

We hold 6 meetings a year and work closely as a team. Committee members are expected to attend the meetings and to play a full role in the duties, responsibilities and work of the committee.

If you are interested, please contact our Chairman: Allen Burton 0151 648 7115

Back to 'Inside this issue'.

Local History Course

Landmark on Little Eye as depicted on a postcard (postmarked 1906)

On Saturday, 28th June fifteen eager students joined Sue Craggs to attend a Local History Course which she had arranged on Hilbre Island. As we approached Little Eye Sue asked us to be observant and to mention anything that we noticed. The most notable thing was the strange brick structure, which Sue explained had been an aid to navigation. It used to be lined up with a point on the mainland, probably the old windmill on West Kirby Hill, which was replaced by the Beacon.

Once on Hilbre Island we took our places in the newly fitted out Study Centre. In the first session Sue explained about the primary and secondary sources of information that can be used to build up a picture of events from the past. We then talked about the occupations of the people who lived on Hilbre and looked at a document from 1892 which listed the vessels that sailed from Wirral in October and December 1544.

After lunch Sue gave us a quiz to complete. This was in the form of a list of features to be found on the island and we had to go off and find them. I found it fascinating to explore parts of the island that on task days and open days I do not get the chance to visit. Some of the items on the list I had never heard about. It was interesting to see where the salt cistern was and to learn a little about the salt boiling activities.

This was a very enjoyable day, the purpose of which was not to learn the history of Hilbre Island (although what we did learn about Hilbre was extremely interesting) but to learn how to research local history and not to jump to conclusions. We were all very grateful to Sue for giving up her time and putting in so much work and effort in preparing for this day. She was so well organised and her knowledge about the local area is very impressive. Thank you Sue.

June Atkinson

Heritage Days: Hilbre Open Day, Seal Watching &
Mobile Information Unit : 14th & 21st September

The Telegraph Station building {dating from 1841} will be open, members will be Seal Watching through our telescope with visitors, walks may be led by members around the island at various times during the day, and the Rangers’ Mobile Information Unit will be staffed by members at Dee Lane Slipway, West Kirby.

Back to 'Inside this issue'.

The new composting toilets

Composting toilets

The new composting toilets are now complete & are much enjoyed by those of us used to the old chemical toilet! How do they work? The composting process works over a two year cycle. There are two chambers under each toilet, only one of which is in use at any time. When in use, a shovelful of hemp or grass cuttings is put into the chamber once a week to help the composting process. After a year of use, the toilet gets moved over the second chamber. The first chamber is then left to compost over the following year, after which the contents are dug out and taken off the island and the cycle begins again. There is a vacuum effect that draws air down into the chamber and out through the funnel.

Nicky Norriss

If you would like to contribute your own recollections to future newsletters, please e-mail us:


Always check the tides before going out to Hilbre. Tides change each day. Use the safe route, it is dangerous to use any other route. For full details of when to cross safely and the safest route to Hilbre see our Planning your visit to Hilbre Island page.


Sunset over the Dee Estuary © Susan Craggs

PLEASE NOTE: All articles and photographs in this web site are ©  COPYRIGHT of Friends of Hilbre unless specifically otherwise stated.

Back to 'Inside this issue'.