The Friends of Hilbre Newsletter 
Volume 1, Issue 30 - Online version

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Friends of Hilbre
Plan Your Visit.
How to Join.
MIU Events.
Volunteers' Work.

Inside this issue:
Seal Watching.
Last Task of the Year.
Mobile Information Unit.
Getting the Balance.
Safety Notice.

Latest Newsletter


Hilbre Island from West Kirby on Boxing Day 2008 © Ian Chantler

The Friends of Hilbre re:
Membership Forms,
General information,
Volunteers Work: Tasks, Open Days, Seal Watching, Mobile Information Unit

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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Hilbre Telegraph Station Lookout building is used as the interpretative centre for the islands.


Now that winter is upon us, it is the time of year to reflect on all the hard work of the Friends of Hilbre. We give thanks to all our members for their contributions toward protecting the islands, informing the public and promoting the work of the Friends.

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 Newsletter Submissions

Now that winter is upon us, it is the time of year to reflect on all the hard work of the Friends of Hilbre. We give thanks to all our members for their contributions toward protecting the islands, informing the public and promoting the work of the Friends.

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Seal Watching Throughout Summer 2009

Atlantic Grey Seal in the Dee Estuary

We have now had the last seal watching day for this year, and we have enjoyed a really successful and interesting time. On the monthly seal watching days visitors to the island have been very happy and grateful to be able to view the seals through the telescope. It is especially satisfying for those of us on duty when a visitor has not realized that there are seals hauled out on the sandbank. Their look of amazement and joy makes our efforts worthwhile. It is sometimes difficult for children to be able to see down the telescope, but when they succeed it is a joy to watch their faces.

Each month the volunteers on duty make an estimate of the number of seals on the sandbank. It is a tricky task, but we have found that if you can count a group of ten seals, it is then possible to then count approximately how many groups of ten can be seen. This is not easy as very often the seals snuggle up quite close to each other. Also there are always some that like to move along the sand in their very clumsy and ungainly manner, so different to the sleek, agile creatures that we see in the water. The numbers of seals have varied from month to month peaking at around 300 in June. On a couple of occasions this year we have found that instead of hauling out only on the side of the sandbank opposite to Hilbre we have also been able to see some on the far side of the sandbank. Some of the seals will now have gone off to breeding grounds but there will still be a colony there throughout the winter months.

I wish to thank my group of volunteer seal watchers who have been so willing and enthusiastic throughout the summer. I am so grateful to them. I do hope that you will all join me again next year. Obviously you will not need to attend the training session, but if you wish to be there you will be very welcome. Once again THANK YOU TO YOU ALL

If you would like to join the group of volunteers next year, please look out for the Seal Watch training day which will be announced in the next newsletter, together with the dates for the seal watching days. We are not experts but we can pass our knowledge on to enhance the experience of the visitors to the island.

June Atkinson

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Last Task of the Year

The former Buoymaster’s buildings and Niffy Bay

Saturday 24th October was the last task of the year on the island. The weather was unpromising when we met but as we arrived on the island the sun was shining. This didn’t last and there was soon a heavy shower. This gave way to the sun again and during the afternoon the wind got up. The fine weather lasted until just before we had to leave so we all got a good drenching on the way back to West Kirby.

There were six of us and we all felt we had achieved something through our day’s efforts. The wheels were put back on the wheelbarrows, having had their punctures repaired. The artefacts from the display in the Lookout were taken out and carefully stowed away with the telescopes in the locker in the Day Centre kitchen. Our resident handy man planed the door of the Goat Shed so that it now opens more easily and he also screwed a handle on the outside to complete the job. 

The former Buoy Master's house is the two storey building in the picture.

Plastering needs doing in the rooms in the Buoymaster’s House.

Jo seems quite keen to upgrade the Summerhouse in the eastern garden of the two storey building. To start the job, we cleared away the accumulated junk and dragged it to the area by Fog Cottage ready for disposal. The area outside the Buoy Master’s Workshop was cleared up. Finally we moved inside the two storey building and shovelled and bagged the plaster which had fallen out of the ceilings in some of the rooms to prepare for the re-plastering which I am told, is to be done sometime.

Allen Burton

Clearing the bracken allows the heather to flourish

During tasks throughout the last few years we have been working hard on clearing the bracken on Heather Brow. Teams of volunteers and the students from the university have regularly pulled the bracken in this area.

As you can see from the pictures, we have had a huge impact on the regeneration of the heather in this area. Thanks to the hard work of our volunteers the heather is now flourishing.

Mobile Information Unit

A big thank to all volunteers for giving your time this past year at the Mobile Information Unit and the other events we attended. We look forward to meeting up again in 2010 and would be delighted to welcome new volunteers. Business as usual from March!

For further information please e-mail Val or Barbara at

Getting the Balance between the Visitors and the Wildlife

Hilbre is a Nature Reserve, in the sense that the seashore life, the plants, the ground nesting birds, and the wading birds which spend their winters feeding on the mud of the estuary are all protected. Since about 1980, Hilbre has collected as many categories of wild life designation as Judi Dench has Oscars, and for the same reason – excellence. The Dee estuary as a whole is a Ramsar site (of international, world wide importance for certain wetland birds); Special Area of Conservation (EU); Special Protection Area (EU); SSSI, ie. Site of Special Scientific Interest (UK), and the Hilbre Islands themselves form an official National Nature Reserve.  

Thrift and Bird’s Foot Trefoil               Fencing                                     

Does this mean we are not allowed to walk or even breathe in case we damage something on the islands? Not at all! Hilbre was regarded as a local right of way centuries ago, probably since its chapel was a part of West Kirby parish, and then when the local Rector was allowed by the resident monks of Chester Abbey to continue taking his (human) flock to Hilbre on 15th August for the Feast of the Assumption.
After this, stories are told that there was a corpse route from the north end to the middle of the main island, where the monks’ cottage was succeeded, many years later, by the Hilbre pub. Public houses were often regarded as temporary mortuaries for accident victims, and Hilbre had plenty of those; any storm could wreck ships carrying goods and passengers on the sandbanks. The coroners’ records are full of tragedies. In the last 150 years, there were frequent quarrels between local people and Hilbre’s tenants, who tried to bar all visitors. During both wars, access was limited, and army or RAF personnel were installed to protect Merseyside from invasion.

Now, we can go to Hilbre more or less whenever we want, providing we keep our dogs on a lead, do not fish or light fires, and do not disturb the wild life, eg. by picking flowers, and avoid trespassing in the fenced plots on the island. And watch the tide times, of course!. But we are free to roam everywhere else. Our ancestors would be very envious!
Sue Craggs

An introduction to coastal wildlife and their habitats

An informative 48 page mini booklet on Wirral’s coast has been published by Wirral Council’s Coastal Rangers and is available at Wirral Country Park or can be downloaded from the web site. The areas covered include:

The Dee Estuary: Wirral Country Park and West Kirby.
North Wirral Foreshore: Hoylake and Meols and North Wirral Country Park.
The Mersey Estuary: New Brighton and Eastham Country Park

“This booklet will encourage you to explore the wonderful Wirral coastline, from mature woodlands and windswept grasslands, to rocky foreshores and miles of golden sandy beaches. There are six Green Flag parks along the coast, and we have selected three as ‘hubs’ from which to start your journey, taking you past some of the cleanest bathing waters in Europe… “

WIRRAL WALK AND CYCLE GUIDES are also available to download from the web site.



This newsletter is available by e-mail only.
To receive an electronic copy {Adobe Reader required} please e-mail Wirral Rangers at:


Log on to:


The Dee Estuary is one of the UK’s premier birding locations for wetland and shorebirds. The Dee Estuary Birding web site describes the best Dee Estuary birdwatching areas with detailed maps and latest bird news for dedicated twitchers and casual birdwatchers alike.

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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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