The Friends of Hilbre Newsletter 
Volume 1, Issue 32 - Online version

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

Inside this issue:
Mayor's Visit.
Task on Hilbre.
Seal Numbers.
MIU News.
E-mail Newsletter.
Coastal Scene.
Safety Notice.

Archived Newsletters


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 632 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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Visit to Hilbre by local Mayors

Mayors and Civic Dignitaries visit Hilbre Island. © Colin Jones.

On 6th July, the Rangers hosted a party of Mayors, their Mayoresses, and drivers, on a visit to Hilbre. Arriving in Land Rovers, with safely dry feet, the representatives of Sefton, Runcorn, Wirral, East and West Cheshire were guided first to cups of tea and coffee made by June and Sue, of the Friends.

The party was afterwards conducted around the Hilbre buildings, shown the seals, the Bird Observatory, the Lookout display of posters and artefacts, and all appeared very happy with what they saw. The weather was not a great delight, but shelter and interesting things to see made all the difference. Jo Hanik, who was in charge of the visit,
presented the party with booklets about Hilbre.

We in Friends are very pleased that local dignitaries may see for themselves how money from Wirral Council, and our Friends group, is being spent on maintaining such a wonderful place.

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 Volunteers Task Day 31st July

Six volunteers and David risked the rain (which didnít fall after all) to carry out our usual sort of menu of tasks. Some members expertly built up the low erosion wall on the eastern cliff (see photo). Others pulled bracken on the mound by the Keeperís slip way, revealing grass and other plants which had struggled to survive there since it was a small patch of turf and colourful flowers. We looked out for litter and routing cleaning jobs, as always. There is always painting of walls to be done! And the ride over in Davidís Land Rover saves energy!

We met Davidís three resident assistant Rangers, who are living on Hilbre for the summer months. Along with one of the bird watchers at the Hilbre Bird Observatory, they will keep a helpful eye on the island and its welfare for the busy time when there are likely to be more visitors. Today, they were wallers.

The computer, for Friends and visiting parties to use, now has a large collection of slides, mainly Hilbreís history from maps and pictures. These can be set as a slide show, by those who know the magic word. One of our members, Rose, gave useful advice on operating the folders, and transferring pictures from one drive to another.

A new lintel was inserted above the doors to the Buoy Master's Workshop on 2010.

We admired the new back door on the Buoy Masterís House, which has been beautifully restored by North West Construction; (see the picture of David, proudly standing beside it). Wirral Council are taking an interest in restoring Hilbre, bit by bit. Is this partly because the work of the Friends has shown the Council officers and councillors that their funding will not be wasted? Certainly itís worth every penny Ė the buildings already restored are in regular use, by volunteers, working academics, and parties of visitors. The new door will add to the continuing work on the old house, which Friends, Rangers and the Council hope to carry out, to make the building useful to these organised groups.

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Jellyfish on the shoreline

Common Moon Jellyfish and Lion's Mane Jellyfish

June 17th saw a vast number of the common Moon Jellyfish Aurelia aurita deposited by the tide on the shorelines of Hilbre and the Red Rocks area at Hoylake. There were also many of the giant Lionís Mane jellyfish Cyanea capilla wrecked on the shoreline - this jellyfish is capable of giving a very painful sting.

Val Burnett

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Record numbers in the Dee Estuary of Atlantic Grey Seals

Grey Seals hauled out on the West Hoyle Bank © Steve Cumberlidge

It has been generally accepted that the Grey Seal colony visiting the Dee Estuary originate largely from the rocky islands {rookeries} on, or around, Ramsey Island in West Wales. This understanding has been challenged in recent years; one seal tagged at Colonsey in the Hebrides was tracked by satellite to the Dee Estuary and made the journey in 4 days! It is possible that some Grey Seals travel to the Dee Estuary from the Isle of Man, Ireland or Scotland. Occasional Common Seals Phoca vitulina visit the estuary.

The Grey Seal population do not breed in the estuary, they use the Liverpool Bay area to haul-out, feed and moult, and small numbers may investigate the Mersey Estuary. The seals haul-out on the east side of the West Hoyle sandbank, near Hilbre, where the slope of the sand shelters them from the prevailing north westerly wind.

Atlantic Grey Seals © Val Burnett

The earliest positive identification of a Grey Seal in the Dee Estuary was in 1909; by 1928 about 10 were using the West Hoyle Bank. Records from 1934 show the Grey Seal and the Common Seal were observed off Hilbre; an alternative haul-out site was also used at the north end of Hilbre during the war years. Records have been kept since 1957 by members of the Hilbre Island Bird Observatory {HiBO} of the numbers of seals present in the estuary. When personnel are available counts have been taken on a daily basis, weather conditions, disturbance and comments are also noted.

Throughout the 1950s there was an increase of Grey Seals using the West Hoyle Bank, this trend continued until about 1964 when a maximum of 200 were recorded, numbers then
stabilised just below this level for a number of years. A gradual decrease then set in and by 1982 there were only 66% of the 1964 peak. The numbers of Grey Seals in the Dee Estuary have since increased and in the summer of 1999 between 300-470 Grey Seals were hauling-out on the West Hoyle Bank. In 2004 the highest count was 597; the highest count on 11th April 2005 was 600.

Hilbre Island Bird Observatory records show a surprising increase in numbers during 2010:

    25th May: 723      12th June: 779      24th June: 825

The high numbers have followed a few years of slow decline, counts have always fluctuated over the years but the overall trend has been a steady increase. The highest numbers of Grey Seals in the estuary are usually between June and August and the highest ever count on record was 825 on the 24th June 2010.

Val Burnett

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Mobile Information Unit & Events 2010

Barbara, Margaret, Caroline, Peter Bailey (a former Keeper on Hilbre), Val and Roy.

A big thank you to all our volunteers who staffed the MIU five times and attended the History and Heritage Fair (Birkenhead), The Friends of Ashton Park Fair (West Kirby) and St. Bridgetís Church Fair (West Kirby) Ė your help was invaluable.

We still need volunteers for: August 22nd (MIU), August 30th {Hoylake Lifeboat Day}, September 5th (MIU), October 3rd (MIU) and December 4th (The Friends of Ashton Park Christmas Fair) and would be grateful if members would get in touch with Barbara or Val to offer help ASAP.

Members of the public welcome our presence at Dee Lane slipway with the MIU, and our stalls at other events, the information and sales items available regarding Hilbre and are much appreciated. New volunteers are warmly welcomed.

Contacts: Barbara or Val by e-mail:

E-mail version of The Friends of Hilbre Newsletter

Could all those Friends of Hilbre members who are willing to receive the Newsletter via e-mail please e-mail:

The Membership Secretary at:

Sending the Newsletter to our members by electronic mail is more environmentally friendly and will also save the group time and money. Although the Membership Secretary already has some e-mail addresses, this process will make it easier. Thank you.

Coastal Scene

The current edition of this informative Newslette, produced by Wirral Coastal Rangers, includes an
article by Peter Bailey describing some of his experiences as Ďcustodianí of the Hilbre Islands in the 1970s. A visit by the Mayor and other civic dignitaries to Hilbre is also commented on in the newsletter.

To receive an electronic copy of Coastal Scene, please e-mail: 

Information will be entered into a database and will not be made available to any other persons other than the editorial team and will be used solely for the purpose of assisting in the distribution of this newsletter. (Adobe Reader required)

Please include information as to whether you are representing a group or organization and if you are a Wirral resident.

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Members of The Public

Please note that members of the public can visit Hilbre Islandsí Local Nature Reserve throughout the year. The Friends of Hilbre offer specified days and times when the Friends will open up the Hilbre Islandsí Interpretative Centre - the old telegraph lookout building - on the main island to visitors. If the weather is suitable the Friends will also offer seal watching, using the telescope. Dates when the Friends of Hilbre volunteers staff Hilbre Islandsí Interpretative Centre {the old Telegraph Station Lookout building} and offer Seal Watching can be found on the page: Friends of Hilbre Days.

The Friends of Hilbre do not guide visitors across the shore to the islands.
Guided walks by the Council Rangers can be booked when available, as advertised in their newsletter on-line. Enquire at Wirral Country Park Tel. 0151 648 4371 {10.00 am Ė 4.00 pm, 7 days a week}.

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For Your Interest



The Dee Estuary is one of the UKís 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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