The Friends of Hilbre Newsletter 
Volume 1, Issue 26 - Online version

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

Inside this issue:

The Friends of Hilbre wish all our Friends and Members a joyful Christmas and a happy 2009

Inside this issue:
Thank you to All Our Volunteers.
Task Report: August.
MIU Report.
Hilbre Improvement by Joseph Hanik.
Helicopter Rescue.
Low Tide Walk with a Difference! A Member's Report.
Transition town West Kirby.
Safety Notice.
Archived Newsletters.


Hilbre - a snowy winter in the 1960s
From an original photograph by  John Gittins {1928 – 2001}; courtesy of Chris Gittins

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:

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Thank You to Our Volunteers

Another year is nearly over and we would like to thank all our volunteers for their stalwart efforts over 2008. A huge amount of work has been done by the volunteers over the last year to help to preserve the Islands’ habitat and to inform the public about the history and wildlife of Hilbre.
Volunteers have been very active in the staffing the Mobile Information Unit and the Interpretative Centre in the Telegraph Station on Hilbre. These are invaluable ways of promoting the Islands and they have also raised significant funds by making and selling souvenirs and other items of interest.

Mayor Phil Gilchrist and Councillor Gerry Ellis calling at the MIU

Volunteers have also been involved in Seal Watch; helping to inform the public about the Grey Atlantic Seals and giving them the opportunity to view the seals through the telescope.
Many of you have enjoyed the physical tasks on the Islands and learned new skills from building walls, to pointing, painting and bracken pulling.
Some have given up their valuable time to give lectures to other groups or to lead walks or education days to enable others to enjoy learning about the Hilbre Islands.
Thank you also to all our members who support our good work behind the scenes and to those who continue to support us by re-joining Friends of Hilbre each year.
Thanks to you all!


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Task Day on 30th August 2008

View from Hilbre to Middle Eye
The yellow plants are Ragwort - an invasive species which spreads prolifically.
The Friends of Hilbre help to keep it under control by dedicated and back-breaking effort.

Our grand task (with gorgeous lunch provided) was this year as successful as ever, although members of other voluntary groups didn’t join us, as they usually do. We still had a good crowd of 16 volunteers, and tackled erosion walling, pulling bracken and ragwort, sorting out our new tool shed in what was the Elsan toilet room and repairing the new toilet door. Ragwort was burnt in our incinerator, by dint of a lot of barbecue fuel. This is the recommended way of disposing of this dangerous weed, by burning it on site. We wore gloves to pull up the plants, and may have to tackle some more throughout the island, as the wet year has been a bonanza for ragwort.

Alan burning Ragwort in an incinerator.

The Big Joint Task days allow us to tackle quite daunting jobs, so we hope they will continue, especially as this year’s food, prepared by Barbara, was well up to scratch. A delicious range of vegetarian and meaty hot and cold dishes was spread out on a tablecloth in the new Day Room, and was rapidly made to disappear. Thank you Barbara, chef of the year! The Rangers have met the cost for us this time, as a thanks for all the volunteers’ efforts on Hilbre.

A volunteer outside the refurbished Day Room mixing mortar for
pointing the small anti-erosion walls on the island.

Volunteers are always welcome. A Land Rover ride is usually available from the Rangers, and members who find physical work difficult can often busy themselves making tea or washing up. So there are ways to help. Please get in touch, and turn up at the next task dates. 2008’s will be over by the time you read this, so watch members’ news, ready for dates in 2009, as soon as we can study the tide times.

Sue Craggs

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Mobile Information Unit - A Team Effort

This year members of the Friends of Hilbre have staffed the Rangers’ Mobile Information Unit for 10 days at Dee Lane slipway, West Kirby. In addition volunteers have attended the History Fair at Wirral Museum, the Friends of Ashton Park Fair, St. Bridget’s Church Fair, Hoylake Lifeboat Day and the Friends of Coronation Gardens first Charities Fair. Thanks are offered to Barbara, Alan, June, Margaret, Joan, Jane, Roy, Joanne, Vilja, Kay, Vicky, Ian and Caroline for your steadfast help. Thanks are also offered to Colin for his help in transporting display and sales items (and Val!) to our various venues. Barbara organised the volunteers’ rota this year - which helped relieve Val’s workload! The Rangers have been fantastic in ensuring the delivery of the MIU to Dee Lane slipway for the Friends use – thank you.

Below: The Friends of Hilbre stall at the Friends of Ashton Park Summer Fair.

The Friends presence at Dee Lane slipway is welcomed by locals and visitors alike, we often get asked why we are not there more often! Our displays, and informative literature, on wildlife, history, archaeology, the Friends work and current news regarding the islands provide people with respectful insights into our precious Local Nature Reserve. Our volunteer staff reinforce the need for visitors to treat the islands and wildlife with consideration and ensure that visitors are aware of the precautions to take when planning a trip with regard to their own safety and to always be aware of the tides. Profits from our sales items help towards the costs of materials needed on Hilbre for task days. If you have any ideas regarding the provision of items for sale please contact Val or Barbara.

The Friends of Ashton Park are holding their annual Christmas Fair in Westbourne Hall, West Kirby on Saturday 13th December and our team will be there. Do come and join in the festive atmosphere and visit the Friends of Hilbre stall – you may find that much needed birthday or Christmas gift!
If you would like to volunteer your help on the MIU between March and October 2009 please contact Val or Barbara.

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Hilbre Improvements by Joseph Hanik

In 2008 the Bunkhouse on Hilbre Island was converted in to a Day Room facility, part of Phase One of a series of improvements planned for the complex of buildings on the main island, most of which form part of the old Buoy master’s house, workshop and store.

Other improvements undertaken so far have included the building of two composting toilets adjacent to the Day Room, resurfacing of the ‘courtyard’ and removal of the water tank and gas store next to the Telegraph Station. Phase Two has already started with new gas and water plumbing to the single storey building, which was inhabited by the Coastal Wardens this summer – the first time the building has had any human residents for over 10 years!

Purpose-built display/storage units have now been
installed in the Telegraph Station building.

A new water butt and fridge made life a bit easier for the volunteers and although there’s still a long way to go to in getting the classroom and two storey accommodation up and running we’ve made a lot of progress in the last couple of years. None of this would have been possible without the financial assistance from Wirral Council’s Special Initiatives Team who have provided funding of over £62,000 so far for the project.
Thanks also to West Kirby Lions who paid for all the cutlery, plates, pans and other kitchen utensils for the single storey building which still requires some further work but which we hope will become a field study centre providing accommodation for research on this unique Cheshire habitat. The Ranger Service continues to undertake repair and maintenance work and most of the fencing is now is good condition with further improvements scheduled for this coming winter including new gated access to the ‘gazebo site’ and replacement of the fence at the top of Niffy Bay.

Plaque commemorating the opening of the refurbished Day Room (left)
The Day Room (right)

The Day Room has already hosted two very successful history courses run by the Friends of Hilbre and two sea mammal recording sessions run by Cheshire Wildlife Trust with the help and support of the Friends of Hilbre and the Ranger Service. We hope that the facility will be used more next year by visiting groups who can book the Day Room when arranging for their group permit.

The kitchen in the Day Room building - before and after refurbishment.

A new hand-water pump has been installed in the kitchen area (left).
Inside one of the new composting toilets (right).

The Day Room isn’t just a wet weather shelter; it’s a well equipped resource for schools, walking groups or history groups who require an area on the main island for more formal learning environment and who are also then able to take advantage of the centrally heated ‘lecture room’ and fully equipped kitchen.

The Friends of Hilbre continue to make a major contribution to the management of the islands. In 2008 the Telegraph Station was open on nine Sundays from March to October with volunteers leading guided walks of the main island, providing seal watching guides and staffing the Wirral Parks and Countryside Mobile Information Unit at West Kirby Marine Lake Car Park.
The task days continue to be invaluable in the practical management of the islands; bracken pulling, painting, wall building and litter picking are just some of the tasks that regularly take place to maintain the high standards. The books and computer purchased by the Friends will now find a permanent home in the Day Room along with more recent purchases which will be used in the classroom and field study centre as they develop. Both David and myself would like to take this opportunity to thank the Friends of Hilbre for their continued support and assistance in managing the islands.

The single storey buildings attached to the Buoy masters House {Trinity Cottage}
are scheduled for renovation in the future.

The Hilbre Islands have a special place in the hearts of many people. To see the old Buoymaster’s buildings falling in to such a state of disrepair was very saddening for visitors and managers alike, and so I am delighted to be part of the islands’ management team at a time when so many improvements are being made, improvements which will provide better facilities for our existing visitors and which will encourage excellent use of the islands resources.

Next year we hope to see the good working partnership between Wirral Council, The Friends of Hilbre and The Hilbre Bird Observatory and the high standards we maintain year after year on the islands rewarded with a Green Flag Award, and that’s reminded me of another job for this winter – get the flag pole in the paddock repaired!

Josef Hanik, Senior Ranger – Wirral’s Coast

N.B. Booking for the Day Room can be made at the same time as booking the Group Permit at Wirral Country Park, but that we would hope any one using the Day Room is using it for more than just a wet weather shelter. i.e. don’t book it because you think it might rain! It will not be opened as a rule, even if it is raining, for groups or individuals to take shelter in, otherwise people may expect this to become the norm and not take suitable wet weather protection or responsibility for their own safety.

  Helicopter Rescue on Hilbre

The photographs (© of Colin Jones) demonstrate the valuable work of the rescue services as they fly to the aid of an injured walker on Hilbre. The Air Ambulance Paramedics and the Beach Life Guards attended to the needs of this visitor to the islands.

FOH acknowledge the wonderful and essential work that the rescue services provide and we have witnessed many instances where they have come to the aid of people who are injured or in danger.

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Low Tide Walk with a Difference! A member's report.

This year’s family walk to Hilbre Island changed into something different. I met up with Sue Craggs and Alison McAfee at West Kirby shortly after 5.30 pm on Monday 1st September, after taking shelter from a heavy downpour of rain. By now the sun was making an appearance but there were many menacing shower clouds around. After a short discussion we decided that it was best not to chance walking out to Hilbre just in case more of the wet stuff fell from the sky.

Rather than cancel the walk altogether I thought that a shorter walk closer to some shelter would be a good idea. All agreed and we set off in the direction of Red Rocks, keeping a watch on the sky so a quick turnaround could be made if necessary.

As the walk progressed the air went very still and the sound of the seals howling out on Hoyle Bank could be heard. This was softened into a haunting melody by the distance and the quietness that surrounded us. The clouds were now moving away and the sun was sinking over Hilbre brought out the colours in the abundant plant life around. Sue took this opportunity to take many photographs of these various plants and I found her comments about many of them very informative and interesting.

At Red Rocks we turned back towards West Kirby and walked along the boardwalk adjacent to the gold course. There was probably a lot of small wildlife in and around the ponds and bushes but well hidden from view. As we approached West Kirby with views across the golf course on our left and to Wales on our right, the sky cleared even more and we ended the evening sitting on a wall by Morrison’s tucking into a bag of crisps and a soft drink.
Both Alison and Sue said that it was a very enjoyable evening walk and as I left for the train home, Sue and Alison walked back to their car. The sun was now approaching the horizon over the sands between Little Eye and Hilbre, which made a perfect ending to a perfect walk.

John Chalder–Royle

West Kirby Environmental Group - for your interest.

Transition Town West Kirby (TTWK) is a grass roots community initiative that seeks to build a more resilient community as a response to the challenges posed by climate change and peak oil. It is part of a rapidly growing international movement that taps in to people's desire to see practical steps towards a truly sustainable society. You can keep up to date with their progress at  and also a regularly updated blog at

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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.


Icicles on Hilbre in the 1960s From an original photograph by
the late John Gittins; courtesy of Chris Gittins

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

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