The Friends of Hilbre Newsletter 
Volume 1, Issue 36 - Online version
August 2011

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

Inside this issue:
AGM Report.
Desert Island Last Chance!
Come and join us.
No boat required.
Memorial Bench.

Fof H clothing.
Mid-week tasks.
MIU news.

Safety Notice.

Archived Newsletters


The Buoy Master’s buildings.

In the nineteenth century Trinity House decided to maintain an efficient buoy depot on Hilbre Island and to appoint a suitable person to take charge of it and live on the island as buoy keeper. Trinity House received the consent of the owners the Dean & Chapter of Chester Cathedral, and the Liverpool Dock Trustees – who sub-let part of island to Trinity House. Eventually a new store and dwelling were built for the buoy master who used these buildings until 1876 when the new Holyhead depot opened. The buildings have since been used for various purposes but are in need of restoration.

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

All our volunteers, for insurance purposes, are required to be a member of the Friends of Hilbre and over 18 years of age. For Membership Application Forms please e-mail our Membership Secretary at:

Tides and Information
Wirral Country Park Ranger Service 0151 648 4371

Wirral Council Web Site:

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This year marked the 10th anniversary of the formation of the Friends of Hilbre.  
The idea of a Friends group for Hilbre was conceived by Sue Craggs and Buffy McAfee.   It was launched at a public meeting in West Kirby Concourse in March 2001, which led to the formation of a working party to set up a structure for the group.  In turn this led to the first AGM in May, 2001.
During 2010 we continued our usual round of activities.  Our 8 Task Days, 8 Seal Watching/Open Days and 10 days when the Information Unit was staffed and in attendance at West Kirby and other venues were well supported. In the period March to October we put in a total of approximately 1,020 hours of volunteering.
This year was an occasion to look back and celebrate some of our successes. To make the evening special Sue provided a birthday cake which was well received by all those present. It was disappointing that there were only 22 Members present, the lowest ever attendance.
Sue stepped down from the Committee to take a “rest”.  That’s another way of saying “to devote more time to some of her other commitments”.  In the past she has worked tirelessly on behalf of the Friends. We all wish her well and we’re certain to see her on many occasions on Hilbre.
At the beginning of the year we were unaware of the major events which were to overtake us by the end of December.  Jo Hanik our speaker talked to us about the changes which have been wrought in the management of Wirral’s Open Spaces but I and many other Friends of Hilbre remain confident and optimistic for the future care and development of the Dee Islands.            Allen Burton, Chairman

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Hilbre has always been ‘dry’ in the sense that it comes under the West Kirby by-laws banning drinking of alcohol in public places.  Now there will not even be any water on the island!
Due to more stringent regulations, the entire water supply on Hilbre has been declared unfit for use. It has always been necessary to boil the water for making drinks or washing dishes. Now, as all the tanks have been drained, there is simply no water supply.
Anyone going to the island in future will have to provide their own drinks, hot or cold!

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We are always happy to welcome new volunteers to our task days. We do a wide variety of activities on Hilbre, including walling, weeding, maintaining the buildings, bracken pulling, litter picking, building fences etc. The task days are always great fun and the volunteers are a friendly lot. It’s nice to think that the work that you do is helping to preserve the islands for the wildlife and for future generations to enjoy. Most tasks take place over a high tide and that is when Hilbre is at its most beautiful.


When is an island not an island? Last year I traveled to all four corners of England, Scotland and Wales to find out, and to be probably the first person to visit all 43 tidal islands which can be walked to from the UK mainland.
It was a wet September afternoon when I visited the Hilbre Islands, the mistiness and few people adding to the islands’ serene atmosphere. As the rain stopped, the walk back across the sands with evening sunshine over the Welsh mountains was one of my more memorable tidal island moments. With so much of interest in both history and wildlife, the Hilbre chapter is one of the longest in the book.
No Boat Required (£12.99), a book illustrated with colour photographs, contains a wealth of information with many little known facts and stories. It takes the reader on a unique journey around Britain to explore islands, some familiar but most which few of us know exist and even fewer have visited. It concludes that our tidal islands are special places, many with fascinating and amusing stories, and each one of them different.                                                                                Peter Caton



The Whitely Memorial Bench was installed on Hillbre Island on the 22nd July.   It was paid for by a legacy from Mr Eric Whitely and matched funding from our own resources.
The picture shows Jo Hanik, Allen Burton and the team who built and installed it.   It's a really good job and excellent quality.  
It has been placed in front of the one storey building and will be used by the students who stay on the Island and the Friends of Hilbre.

Left: Whitely Memorial Bench.


Volunteers bravely model the new, Friends of Hilbre, wet weather fashion line! 
More seriously, volunteers can order polo shirts with the Friends of Hilbre Logo embroidered on them. The logos are designed by Friends of Hilbre artist Vilja Gatrell. The shirts come in a variety of colours and cost £15.00 each.If you are interested please contact Vilja at or speak to one of the committee members on a task day.


We have arranged some mid-week tasks, as a trial in August and September, for Friends of Hilbre members who would love to volunteer but are unable to come at the weekends. Please meet at the slip way by the marine lake at West Kirby, in sufficient time, to walk out to Hilbre at the stated time.


Time walking out

Return Time

Wednesday 24th August

10.00 a.m. 

5.00 p.m.

Wednesday 21st September

9.45 a.m.

2.30 p.m.

Ken Stackhouse will be leading the task and the Ranger overseeing us will be Matt Thomas.
The task will be over a low tide, which will give easy access for a land rover and trailer if needed.
Please contact Allen Burton for further details at


Volunteers have been wonderful in giving their time to staff the MIU this year - thank you. We had atrocious weather conditions our past 3 Sundays at Dee Lane slipway - it can feel like being under attack in the Tardis prior to take off!  On 17th July Barbara dashed back from Anglesey for the morning session, Val returned from the Lake District for the afternoon session and stalwarts Roy and Andy also turned in. The weather was so awful we eventually decided to close down the unit and Ranger Frank collected it early. The implications of bad weather conditions are that members of the public are not around to ask for information about our Friends group, the Hilbre Islands, tides etc. and fund raising items are not sold. If we have a run of bad weather it can also be quite dispiriting for volunteers. So maybe we should introduce a ‘Sun Dance’ to be performed by members the day before the MIU - our 150 members could join in at the same time!

 Val Burnett, Esther Mcvey, Gerry Ellis and Barbara Booth.

More positively St. Bridget’s Church Fair at West Kirby on 25th June was a delight to attend – good weather makes such a difference. Brass band music, maypole dancing, refreshments, Punch & Judy and a variety of stalls all contributed to a joyful atmosphere. The Charles Dawson Brown Museum and St. Bridget’s Church and tower were open and walks around West Kirby old village took place. Wirral M.P. Esther McVey opened this popular local event and Gerry Ellis was her escort - Barbara and I were complimented, as per usual, on our efforts with the FofH stall.
Most Friends groups are based on the ‘mainland’ and it is easier for folk to make contact or to join in voluntary work with them. Our members who staff the MIU at Dee Lane slipway and stalls at local events are a valuable point of contact for locals and visitors alike, some of whom have never heard of the Friends of Hilbre. So thank you all our volunteers who steadfastly turn out in all conditions.
Our next dates are August 14th [MIU], August 29th [Hoylake Lifeboat Day], September 18th [MIU], and October 16th [MIU]. If anyone would like to join our team please contact Barbara or Val at


We would love to hear from you! Please send your special memories, poems or favourite photos of Hilbre to Nicky our Newsletter editor at

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}.

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.


This newsletter is available by e-mail only.
To receive an electronic copy by e-mail (Adobe Reader required) please contact:


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 page: Planning your visit to Hilbre Island or contact Wirral Country Park Ranger Service on 0151 648 4371 or e-mail:


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

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