The Friends of Hilbre Newsletter 
Volume 1, Issue 27 - Online version

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

Inside this issue:
Seal Watching.
Volunteer Dates.
Task Dates.
Erosion News.
Safety Notice.


Pale-bellied Brent Geese
© Colin Jones

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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Friends of Hilbre Volunteers Schedules 2009

This is the time of year when we advertise the Friends of Hilbre volunteers schedules for 2009, so get out your diaries! Volunteers take part in a range of activities throughout the Spring, Summer and Autumn and there is something to suit most people’s interests.

Left: Bracken and Ragwort pulling are never ending tasks for volunteers.
Right: Cleaning ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ near the tide siphon prior to painting.

You may be tempted to be part of the Seal Watch group; you may like to join the team in the Mobile Information Unit or at the Interpretative Centre on Hilbre. You may enjoy more physical activities and would like to volunteer for the tasks on Hilbre for example bracken-pulling, walling or maintaining the historic buildings.

We have a very active core of volunteers who enjoy making a contribution to the preservation of the Hilbre Islands. If you have not volunteered before, new people are always welcome. Our only requirement is that you are a member of the Friends of Hilbre and over 18 years of age. Please e-mail the Membership Secretary for an Application Form at

Dates for members of the Friends of Hilbre on duty with the Mobile Information Unit, at Dee Lane slipway, West Kirby can be found on Events Page, Dates for volunteers re Hilbre Interpretative Centre Open Days and Seal Watching can be found on Open Days Page. Members of the public welcome our presence on these days and the opportunity to learn more about Hilbre Island. Dates of Task Days are not available on-line; they are available for members in the paper copy of the Newsletter. For additional information e-mail the committee at:

If you have not volunteered before, do join us - we are a very friendly group. You will learn more about the Hilbre Islands and acquire new skills (training is available) and most of all it is good fun! For all our existing volunteers, welcome back, nice to see you again and here’s to a great 2009!

The Editor

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Seal Watching 2009

Atlantic Grey Seal in the Dee Estuary © John Rogers

We all know that Hilbre Island is a magical place and one of the features that make it so special is the fascinating seal colony. It is wonderful to see the seals hauled out on the sandbank at low tide and hear their haunting sounds. The seals that bob around in the water off the slipway of the old lifeboat station are equally interesting and maybe even more entertaining.

There is now a group of seal watchers who have endeavoured to learn a little more about the seals and are willing to be called upon to walk over to Hilbre on set days, set up the telescope for visitors to the island to be able to view the seals. The visitors are always very appreciative of talking to someone who has a little knowledge about the seals. The seal watchers, themselves find that these days are really enjoyable and rewarding. It is surprising how many visitors have not been aware of the existence of the seals.

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Seal Watching Training Day for Members: 22nd March 2009


Seal Watching Training group.

To join this group you must be a member of The Friends of Hilbre and over 18 years of age. If you are interested there will be a training session on the first seal watching day of this year, Sunday 22nd March 2009 at 2.30pm. on the island. It will be low tide during this time so there is no problem about crossing to the island. We need to leave the island by 5.30pm, but the training session will only last about 1 - 1½ hours. You will be given a set of notes that you can always refer to. (Most of us always have them with us on these days in case we are stuck for answers to probing questions). I would stress that we are not experts and it is not expected that we should be, we just enjoy taking an interest and learning a little more about the seals.

If you take part in this session we would hope that you would sign up for at least one seal watching day throughout the season. The seal watching days are listed in this newsletter.

All trained seal watchers do not need to attend, but will be very welcome, but I would appreciate you bringing your notes with you. I would also be very grateful if you could let me know for which days you would wish to volunteer during this year.

Anyone interested in Seal Watching Training should contact June by Monday 9th March at:

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Mobile Information Unit and other events: ROTA 2009

Another year and another opportunity for members to staff the Rangers’ Information Unit at Dee Lane slipway!

Volunteers help to promote the work of The Friends of Hilbre, and provide information and literature to the general public about the islands; we also sell fundraising items. The reminiscences of folk visiting the MIU can be fascinating and contribute to our knowledge of the islands in the recent past. The funds we raise help towards the cost of the work we do on Hilbre. Members can volunteer for a morning {10.00am – 1pm} or an afternoon {1pm – 4pm} or both!

We also need members to volunteer for duty at: Wirral History & Heritage Fair in Wirral Museum {Birkenhead}, the Friends of Ashton Park Summer Fair {West Kirby}, Saint Bridget’s Church Summer Fair {West Kirby}, Hoylake Lifeboat Day, and the Friends of Ashton Park & West Kirby Chamber Christmas Fair.

To reserve your place on the MIU ROTA 2009 please contact:

Barbara or Val at
Hope to see you soon!

  Erosion on Hilbre Islands

Aerial view of Hilbre photographed from a microlight. © Kenny McNiffe, 2003.

I should start by saying that anything which applies to Hilbre Island regarding erosion will apply equally to Middle Eye and Little Eye. It could be said to extend in general terms to any coastal area. Coastal erosion is the wearing away of the land by wave and tidal action. It is possible that wind may also play a part. The seashore is a battle ground. Taking place is a constant war of attrition, the sea lapping or, at times, lashing the coast. Tiny fragment by tiny fragment this eats away at stone and soil. Occasionally, because of the constant wear, there will be a bigger chunk which will fall to the onslaught.

Left: Cliff erosion on the east side of Hilbre, Middle Eye is in the distance.
Right: Notice the supporting walls built by the Victorians; Turnstones
 are resting on the cliffs waiting for the tide to go out.

Apart from the force of the waves, another important factor in the rate of erosion is the type of rock. Harder rocks such as limestone yield less quickly to the physical affect of the waves. However they fall victim to the degree of acidity or alkalinity which erodes them by a chemical process.

Wirral and the three Hilbre Islands are made of sandstone, and rather a soft type at that. This is easily ground down by the forces of nature. If this sounds rather alarming, it should be said that these layers of compressed sand have been around for 240 million years or so up to now. There are, however, constant small examples of erosion and fairly frequent bigger instances.

Left: Victorian revetments help to support the western cliffs above Shell Beach.
Right: Supporting walls were built by the Victorians for cliffs
near Niffy Bay and the Buoy Master’s buildings.

Left: Friends of Hilbre volunteers have built retaining walls along part of the western cliffs.
Right: Rock Sea Lavender shelters behind small sandstone walls built
by volunteers at the north end of Hilbre

Not only is the rock itself subject to attack by the sea but the thin layer of top soil on the bigger two Hilbre Islands is perhaps even more prone erosion by wind and rain. The Victorians tried to arrest the effects of the sea by building the wonderful supporting walls which under-pin many sections around the northern end of Hilbre. The Friends of Hilbre and other volunteers have made their contribution by building the extensive retaining walls on the west side which slow down the loss of precious soil.

Left: The lifeboat station and slipway were built in 1849 but are now in a ruinous state.
Right: Wirral Council funded temporary holding repairs to the upper part of the slipway in 2005;
slabs from the middle section are strewn around the shore at the northern end of the island.

The built environment is also subject to nature’s power. The most glaring example is the slipway at the north end which has lost its middle section and if nothing is done will eventually be lost altogether. Smaller, less dramatic effects are on walls, window frames and doors. These need re-painting frequently, providing the Friends with plenty of work. Slates are often torn from roofs and corrosion eats iron and steel at an alarming rate. There will always be tasks to keep everyone busy as long as the wind blows, the rain falls and the tide flows.

Allen Burton, Chairman

Cliff fall west of Middle Eye © Colin Jones

"Talking point of the day was the cliff fall on the west side of Middle near to the south end. Some massive slabs and other rock debris bore witness to the substantial nature of the collapse which involved a fair length of the cliff. No doubt the recent frost assisted the inevitable". {Colin Jones 21.1.09}
Quote from

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For your interest
For a wealth of information about the Dee Estuary please visit: 
The March Newsletter is now on the web site. One ardent recommendation is that bird photographers should keep a respectful distance to ensure the birds are not disturbed and put to flight unnecessarily - see guidelines.

Incorporated web sites include: Dee Estuary Wardens, Dee Estuary Conservation Group, Deeside Naturalist Society, Birding North West, and The Friends of Hilbre.

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Do you have any MEMORIES or stories about Hilbre Island?

We would love to hear from you - please send your contributions to:


The Newsletter Editor at:


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.


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

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