The Friends of Hilbre Newsletter 
Volume 1, Issue 33 - Online version
November/December 2010

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

Inside this issue:
Friends of Hilbre Activities.
Seal Watch.
Dixon Family.
Hilbre Flora.
Web Cam.
E-mail Newsletter.
Coastal Scene.
Safety Notice.

Latest Newsletter


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

Tides and Information
Wirral Country Park Ranger Service 0151 648 4371/3884

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: Activities 2010

During our ninth summer season we have again managed to complete a full calendar of activities. As we go to press the year is not over and there may be one or two more to come.

The Mobile Information Unit is loaned to us by the Ranger Service and has been staffed by volunteers 8 times so far. It is organised by Val Burnett, assisted by Barbara Booth. On scheduled days it is usually parked on the car park by the Marine Lake. Displays of pictures, books, publications and postcards are available to the public to buy. In addition there are key rings, fridge magnets, bookmarks and greetings cards. All have a Hilbre theme and are very popular with the visitors. Perhaps the “commodity” which is traded most is information about the Island and wider issues connected with it. This is our main contact point with the wider public, enabling us to spread the word about Hilbre. The ‘team’ has also attended 5 other local events this year.

On 8 occasions a team of volunteers organised by June Atkinson has set up the group’s telescope on the west side of the Island to offer the public a close up view of the seals which haul out on the Hoyle Bank in the estuary at low tide.

The other part of our activities, the Task Days, have all enjoyed varying degrees of popularity. Numbers vary from 3 to 16. On these days there are certain jobs which are ongoing. Walls, doors and gates to be painted, retaining walls to be built, litter to be picked and depending on the season, bracken and ragwort to be controlled.

I haven’t mentioned the number of hours many people put in, or the time spent in Committee Meetings but I feel sure you will get the picture of a vibrant and hard working group of enthusiasts.

Allen Burton

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 Seal Watching throughout Summer 2010

I wish to thank all the volunteer seal watchers who have been so willing and enthusiastic this summer. For those of you who have just completed your first summer of seal watching I do hope that you have enjoyed it and will join us again next summer.

We have had some very good days this summer with warm weather and many visitors enjoying their views through the telescope. Again there were some visitors who had not realised the existence of the seals and they were delighted to discover them. It was very unfortunate that the last seal watching day of the year was such a disappointment. The weather was wet and miserable we decided therefore to abandon the walk over to Hilbre. I think that the mist would have prevented us from seeing any seals at all.

As Friends of Hilbre seal watchers we have recorded the sighting of over 400 seals on a couple of occasions, however, Hilbre Bird Observatory members actually recorded over 800 seals one day in June.

I do hope that you will all join me next year and once again thank you for your time during this summer.

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 are all willing to learn and pass our knowledge on to the visitors to the island.

June Atkinson

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Dixon Family Gathering

A warm welcome was given to the Dixon family by Hilbre Bird Observatory and Ringing Station members on the 2nd October this year when the family visited Hilbre. The extended family had gathered together to pay tribute to Henry and Denise Dixon who had occupied this southernmost bungalow on Hilbre between 1949 and 1988 when they gave it to the bird observatory.

Nick Dixon unveiled a commemorative plaque on the building and spoke of Henry and Denise and of how much Hilbre had meant to them and all the family through the years. The family then explored their former home and exchanged anecdotes of memorable times spent on the island.

Val Burnett

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Flowering Plants of Hilbre

Of Hilbre’s best three flowers, one is very rare, and the others common but beautiful. These are Rock Sea Lavender, a rather small and not very noticeable version of the familiar, larger, purple Sea Lavender, which appears as an everlasting flower in florists’ shops. This northern race of the species occurs only in 5 places in England. The second is Bird’s Foot Trefoil, a bright yellow and red member of the pea family. Its glorious colour decorates the short sea-spay turf in exposed places on the two main islands. Then there is a great favourite, Thrift, which can cover parts of the same ground in May, especially if there has been a hard winter during the previous months.

Hilbre’s flowers are protected from picking, by the Countryside Act, and in addition by being in a National Nature Reserve. This ruling applies to all three islands, even though Little Eye, becoming badly eroded, is losing some of its plant cover. Even so, a few selfish visitors every summer leave a trail of picked heads, which cannot now produce seeds to keep up the brave show. Rangers and volunteers have a polite word, usually with parents of children too young to know that picking wild flowers is Not A Good Idea. On the whole, visitors treat the islands with care.

Other species, in flower in turn throughout the growing season, are just as interesting and beautiful, such as lacy Pignut blooms, and tiny blue Sheep’s Bit Scabious. Large areas of Sea Purslane and species of Scurvy Grass, looking rather like salad vegetables, show us the usual features of salt tolerant plants: juicy leaves and thick skin. They store water in the leaves to combat the dehydration which would happen to more tender plants when bathed in sea spray. It is not only the sandstone cliffs which are easily damaged by storms.

Wind, too, can harm plants by drying out the leaves, like washing hanging on a line. The main island’s trees all stand in the wind shadow of fences and buildings. At the top of fences, the growth is cut off, as if with clippers, where the young shoots are killed.

A booklet of photographs taken on Hilbre is displayed in the Telegraph Lookout display room, so that visitors can identify the flowers they have seen. There is no law against “picking” them with our cameras!

Sue Craggs

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Computers and Display Screens on Hilbre

Some years ago, Steve Cumberlidge fitted a web camera to the survey mast. Since then, anyone can view Hilbre from home by logging on the . There is a choice of webcams to link to, in several parts of the north Wirral coast. Hilbre’s is active 24 hours a day, with a new picture live every 60 seconds. At night, the lights of Hoylake are visible, and by day, tide levels permitting, the seal colony backing on West Hoyle sand bank.

For authorised groups, hiring the use of the Day Room for study, there is a computer for typing, though not at present for printing. A party can bring their own brand new CDs to record the work they have written up. Such groups need to speak with the Ranger before using the facility, when they book the use of the room.

In the meantime, Steve is working on the display screen in the Telegraph Lookout building. When complete, the screen will show slides, videos of wild life, pictures from the web cam and other sources. Volunteer members of the Friends of Hilbre will be able to operate the display. This will add to the interest of the Lookout exhibition, where visitors on Open Days can see photographs of the history, seals, plants and details of bird ringing by the Hilbre Bird Observatory.

The museum cases in the Lookout show pottery recovered from the rubbish of Hilbre’s past residents, sea shells to help with identification, and a cast of a Cheirotherium footprint. This little ancient reptile lived on the site of Hilbre long before there was an island here.

In these ways, the Friends of Hilbre and our helpers are developing a display of Hilbre’s natural features, to add to our enjoyment and studies of the three islands.

Sue Craggs


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 ‘custodian’ 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 Islands’ Local Nature Reserve throughout the year. The Friends of Hilbre offer specified days and times when the Friends will open up the Hilbre Islands’ 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 Islands’ 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 – 4.00 pm, 7 days a week}.

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For Your Interest



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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