The Friends of Hilbre Newsletter
Volume 1, Issue 41 - Online version
December 2012

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

Inside this issue:
Season's Greetings.
Mid-week Tasks.
Memoirs of Hilbre Part 2.
Editor's Note.
Wirral Bird Club.
Safety Notice.
Archived Newsletters



For information on:
Weekend & Mid-week Task Days
Friends of Hilbre Open Days
Seal Watching Days
Mobile Information Unit Days
Membership Application Forms
Newsletter contributions
General Information

Chairman of the
Friends of Hilbre

Allen Burton 0151 648 7115

Tides and Information
Wirral Country Park Ranger Service 0151 648 4371

Wirral Council Web Site:

Right: Hilbre Island in the snow by the late John Gittins. Courtesy of John's brother, Chris Gittins.

Back to 'Inside this issue'.

More Mid-Week Tasks Planned

Matt, the Ranger, has contacted Ken and arranged for 2 more mid week Task Days.  Unfortunately the November date has already passed, but there is still time to attend the December task.

Friday 7th December 10:00am - 2:30pm.

Please contact Allen 0151 648 7115 if you are interested in going out [only Friends of Hilbre members over 18 years].

Memoirs of Hilbre - a Member's Story Part 2

Back to Hilbre:  we always went out leaving Little Eye to our right before walking on outside, but parallel to rock formations that Dad called the “Hilbre Ledges”, although I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone else use that expression.   

In Spring and Summer, we always climbed on to Middle Eye where, according to my parents, there were lovely flowers to see.  They were correct.  Mum and Dad both knew the names of many of the visible flowers, but Dad was always keen to let me find the smaller blooms.   Once or twice he made me bring up four decent sized stones and using them he’d mark out about a square yard, then make me search and search for as many as I could locate. Some were easy, dandelions, daisies, buttercups, cornflowers (not many), Lady’s bedstraw, tufted vetch, occasionally speedwell, the odd forget-me-not (a garden escapee?)  I seem to recall the best we ever did was nineteen or twenty.
In winter, we by-passed Middle Eye, Hilbre had a sort of fence round it and I think we were supposed to get some sort of pass  -  not that Dad ever bothered.  He was quite friendly with the then keeper.  I can’t recall his name, but “Jones”
seems to ring a slight bell.  He always seemed to be carrying a double-barrelled 12-bore, and was reported to be willing to shoot anything that moved!  Dad told me that that was unfair, that he only “shot for the pot”.  I recall Dad
giving him a florin for a widgeon, which Mother thought was a scandalous waste of money!  She may have been correct; once plucked, there didn’t seem to be much meat.   In really bad weather we sometimes got into his house for
a bit of a warm at the fire and, whatever his name was, he was interesting to listen to.  He tried to explain the Holyhead/Liverpool semaphore signalling system but Dad knew far more about that than the Keeper did!

Of course the island group didn’t look quite the same as it does now. Little Eye was surmounted by a massive wooden pyramid, set in concrete. The wood has long gone but I think some traces of the concrete remain. The beach mark on Hilbre itself was far more massive, and a lot taller than the present apology!  Dad explained that, in dodgy weather, having passed the Great Orme, inward bound, the coast of Wirral and West Lancs, were quite bland, so beach marks were erected to assist Mariners.  The Beacon, above West Kirby, is supposed to be one such marker, as it replaced a windmill, which had doubled as a marker until it was blown down in a storm in the 1830’s.

Harking back to the 1800’s. Dad, who could produce as if by magic, copies of old charts and maps, showed me once a late 18th Century survey of the Dee Estuary which indicated that Hilbre was a much larger, single, island. “Got that wrong didn’t he?” I recall saying. “I’m not so sure” Dad replied “the rest of the Estuary is very accurately shown.  I can’t believe that he’d make an error of that magnitude”.  He went on to tell me that in the late 1800’s the Owners of the Island had to put in massive masonry constructions to prevent the island being broken into separate sections. 

Mr. H. L. Ross; Member of the Friends of Hilbre 

N.B. In the August Newsletter we published the first instalment of the “Memoirs of Hilbre” by Mr Ross. I am prompted by the author to point out that in editing the piece we may have given the impression that his father would adopt a rather “gung-ho” approach to the matter of safety in crossing the Dee Estuary. Mr. Ross has pointed out that, in fact Mr. Ross Snr. was very knowledgeable about local tides and weather and that he and his friends would undertake these crossings after meticulous preparation and only when all conditions were favourable

 Wirral Bird club says Thank You.


On Sunday 19th August, a small group from Wirral Bird Club braved the weather and walked out to Hilbre.
We had arranged to visit the Bird Observatory and had been given permission to use the Friends of Hilbre bird hide. On arriving on the island we went straight to the Observatory. Luckily Colin was on duty and we watched him ring and record a willow warbler and a meadow pipit. It’s not until you see them in the hand that you realise just how small these birds are. I always feel so privileged to stand so close to such beautiful things. Pam was given the chance to release a willow warbler, a “magical moment“ in her words.

We then made our way down to the lifeboat station to do some sea watching. We managed to find some shelter from the rain and wind.  From the slipway we watched great crested grebes, gannets, black terns, common scoter, turnstones, ring plover and even a guillemot.

We decided to have lunch in the bird hide and as we approached we watched a peregrine falcon trying to pluck wheatear off the edge of the cliffs.

Unfortunately from the hide we only saw a pied wagtail, a swallow and a meadow pipit. Though looking back towards Middle Eye we could see large numbers of oyster catchers, gulls, cormorants and herons. At least the hide gave us some shelter from the weather.

During the afternoon we saw little terns, shell duck and a whimbrel and of course many of our resident grey seals. As the tide started to clear the islands we made ready to return to West Kirby.   Even with the unsettled weather we saw 34 species of birds.We would like to say thank you to Colin and the Friends of Hilbre for allowing us to use the bird hide.
Ken & Pam Stackhouse.
Wirral Bird Club & Friends of Hilbre members

We warmly welcome new members to our group.
If you would like to join us please email the Membership Secretary for an Application Form at:

We would love to hear from you - please email your contributions to
the Newsletter Editor at

Please note that members of the public can visit Hilbre Islands’ Local Nature Reserve throughout the year. The Friends of Hilbre do not guide visitors across the shore to the islands. 

Please contact the Coastal Rangers at the Thurstaston Visitor Centre, Wirral Country Park.
Tel. 0151 648 4371 (10am to 4pm, seven days a week).



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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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

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