Birds-foot Trefoil and Thrift on Hilbre Island, the Point of Ayr in the distance
Weekend & Mid-week Task Days; Friends of Hilbre Open
Days; Seal Watching Days;
Mobile Information Unit Days; Membership Application Forms; Newsletter
Chairman of the
Friends of Hilbre
Allen Burton 0151
Tides and Information
Wirral Country Park Ranger Service 0151 648 4371
Council Web Site:
'Inside this issue'.
AGM will mark the 13th year of the Friends of Hilbre. I would urge you
to attend if you are able. It is an opportunity to see and hear what is
going on in the group, to meet like minded people and even to bring
your ideas and suggestions. Even awkward questions are welcome but
answers are not necessarily guaranteed. Back
'Inside this issue'.
Although the number has
dropped a little, we have maintained a level of membership which is
regarded by other local groups as quite high; it is currently around
I look forward to seeing you there - the URC Hall
in West Kirby is on the corner of Meols Drive and Bridge Road.
On-street parking is available but remember the early birds get the
are due in May. Please e-mail our Membership Secretary, Barbara
regarding renewal of membership
firstname.lastname@example.org Alternatively, you can re-join at
the AGM or the Mobile Information Unit.
Membership fees: £10.00 family membership: £6.00 single membership: £4.00 concessions
Grants and Spending
In December last year
FofH applied for a grant from an organisation called 'Love Wirral'
which works under the auspices of Wirral Council. There were two aims
specified in the application. One was to provide an electric drill for
work on the Island, such as fencing (not the 'en garde' type), repairs
to doors and so on. The other was to renew our displays in the Mobile
Information Unit. In January we heard that the bid had been successful
and we now have £415 to spend on these two projects.
grant of £150 was donated by Liverpool Council for Voluntary Services
(LCVS) on behalf of the Selwyn-Lloyd Charitable Trust. This is the
second time this organisation has awarded FoH grant money.
contribution to the Council's financial commitment to Hilbre is to pay
for the replacement of two very old and worn doors at the entrance to
the Buoymaster's Workshop. The total cost will be around £2,500. This
will be quite a shock to our finances but the committee took the view
that we ought to be putting our money to good use. There is nothing to
be gained from building up the bank balance.
we also give our thanks to the Birders who stayed in the buildings on
Hilbre recently for their generous donation of £320 to FoH.
'Inside this issue'.
Wirral History and Heritage Fair
The Mayor of
Wirral, Cllr. Dave Mitchell chatted with Val when he visited The
Friends of Hilbre stall at the Wirral History and Heritage Fair on the
1st March. The Town Hall in Birkenhead had come alive with individuals
and organisations involved in all aspects of Wirral's heritage and
The Friends of Hilbre stall attracted much
attention from folk positively beaming as they remembered their own
visits to our beautiful island in the Dee Estuary.
Tasks on Hilbre
Mid-week tasks have had a good turnout of members so far. In February,
they removed the builders rubble left over from the repairs to the
single storey stone building and cleaned the inside of the building
ready for the coming year. In March they cleared the central path
across Middle Eye and installed marker posts, to divert visitors from
walking over the Welsh side of the Island and prevent further damage to
the midden on the cliffs.
Other important tasks over the coming year include:
Stone buildings: Maintain buildings and garden areas. Paint inside and outside buildings.
Finance and oversee installation of new doors for the Buoy Master’s
Removing invasive species e.g Bracken pulling.
Repairing and maintaining sea defences: fences, gates and walls.
Tool store: Install staging for tools, tidy tools store, tool inventory.
Information: Update displays in Telegraph Office , Day Room and MIU.
Other: Litter picking, maintain central path Middle Eye etc.
Hilbre's Honeycomb Reefs
My word they are ugly!
No wonder they hide in tubes. The shores of Hilbre are home to
Sabellaria alveolata - strange worms that build tubes to live in from
sand grains or small shell fragments. Get enough of these tubes
together and they can form a whole reef, hence their common name of
‘honeycomb reef worms’. On Hilbre they are mainly an ‘intertidal’
species, living in the area between high and low tide marks. In other
areas they may also form subtidal (permanently submerged) reefs. To see
some for yourself, head down to the shore on the western side of Hilbre
or Middle Eye where you can find what appear to be sand-coloured
hummocks, in some areas so extensive they merge together to form reefs.
Other prime Sabellaria areas are along the base of the cliff in Shell
Bay, or in the tidal gauge channel. There are smaller hummocks dotted
around the north-eastern shores of Hilbre too.
When the tide
is out, they hide in their tubes from predators such as birds or crabs
and to prevent desiccation. As the tide comes in feathery appendages
emerge from the tubes, fanning the water to collect food particles or
tube-building materials. The worms themselves are only a few
centimetres long, in contrast to the vast reefs they can produce, and
live for 4 to 5 years. In the right conditions, an individual worm can
build a tube at a rate of 15 cm in a year. Outside the breeding season
they are a similar colour to earthworms, but come late summer the males
turn cream and the females turn purple. The larvae can drift in ocean
currents for many months before finding somewhere suitable to settle,
preferring to set up home where there is already a reef.
are actually fortunate to have these ‘polychaetes’ (bristle worms – I
know, they don’t sound too appealing). Their reefs can provide a
habitat for other organisms to live in, so they actually increase local
levels of biodiversity. Some research is being carried out to find ways
to encourage Sabellaria to grow on man-made structures such as sea
defences for this reason. Honeycomb reefs are quite rare in the UK, and
are a protected habitat. Sabellaria like being warm, and are really
more of a Mediterranean species. In recent decades they have been found
to be extending their range further north. As a consequence they are
now regarded as a climate change indicator species. I have been
studying Hilbre’s reefs as part of a postgraduate project. I have been
surveying the reefs, to compare their extent with that of a decade ago,
and it appears that it has increased. I have also been assessing the
levels of biodiversity associated with the reefs, and how this changes
with the age of the reef – younger reefs are less ‘biodiverse’ than
older reefs. The seals seemed to take an interest in what I was up to
as I surveyed.
Despite the fierce winter storms, the reefs are
mostly intact. Although the reefs can take a pounding from waves, they
can be quite fragile and susceptible to damage by trampling. While I
have been surveying, I have found areas of the reef that have been
damaged by visitors to the islands. I would ask people to take care
around the reefs. We need to protect these reefs – they are a rare
habitat, interesting in their own right, and not only do they increase
biodiversity but they provide a means of monitoring climate change.
Useful … but ugly!
'Inside this issue'.
Marine Conservation Zones
It seems that many
people have recently been under the impression that Hilbre has lost
protection status or, in some way been downgraded. Fear not! That is
not the case. This situation may have arisen because of a report in the
local press informing us that Hilbre was not to be a “Marine
Conservation Zone” (MCZ); while this is true, it is not a change of
MCZ is a new category which is still in the process of
identifying areas which need protection and then conferring this
classification. Hilbre and the Dee Estuary were, in fact, considered.
However the organisation which is making the decisions came to the
conclusion that the area's present protective classifications are
As most of you know, I'm sure, the whole of the Dee
estuary, which includes the 3 Islands, is a Site of Special Scientific
Interest (SSSI) - this is a national classification; at a local level
Hilbre is a Local Nature Reserve. At the international level the
Estuary enjoys the status of Ramsar Site. In 1971 there was an
International Convention, which took place in Iran in the town of
Ramsar. Its aim was to protect wetlands which are important for nature.
The Dee estuary is one of 168 sites selected. For those who feel so
inclined, a search on line for Ramsar Convention will reveal far more
than I can here. (see link below for explanation of terms).
further acknowledgement of the importance of Hilbre is conferred by the
'Cheshire Rigs Group'. This means that the Island is one of a dozen
Regionally Important Geological and Geomorphical Sites
Unless there are major changes of policy at a high level, all this armour should be enough to protect our Island and the Dee.
Important Link for Further Information:
Underground Coal Gasification on the Dee Estuary
Local birder Richard Smith's article on 'Underground Coal Gasification' has now been published on his website:
http://www.deeestuary.co.uk/news0314.htm#second (March 2014 Newsletter).
Dee Estuary is one of the most heavily protected sites in the country
under National, European and Global regulations. Richard’s article
lists a number of terms (listed below) that you may have heard in
relation to the Hilbre Islands and the Dee Estuary; he briefly explains
the legal protection, obligations and responsibilities that are
associated with the following regulations
# Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
# Special Protection Area (SPA).
# Special Area of Conservation (SAC).
# Ramsar site.
# Local Nature Reserve.
Amendment to Task Information
the 2014 FOH Task Leaflet, the times of the tasks on the Seal Watch and
Open Days are listed as ‘Times on Hilbre’. Please note that the ‘first
time stated’ is the time to meet at the Slipway, West Kirby and not as
stated, on Hilbre.
Please contact us at our e-mail address for further information: email@example.com
or phone our Chairman, Allen Burton 0151 648 7115.
'Inside this issue'.
Appeal for World War 1 and World War 2
memorabilia relevant to Hilbre
If you have an article, diary, newspaper item,
painting, artefact, poem, song, and so forth appertaining to the Hilbre
Islands during the war years we would be interested in hearing from
Please e-mail Val Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org
Friends of Hilbre
new members to our group.
you would like to join us please email the Membership Secretary for
an Application Form at: email@example.com
OF THE PUBLIC
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.
TIMES AND INFORMATION
Please contact the Coastal Rangers at the
Thurstaston Visitor Centre,
Wirral Country Park.
Tel. 0151 648 4371 (10am to 4pm, seven days a week).
BIRD OBSERVATORY BLOG HAS DAILY SIGHTINGS ON:
DEE ESTUARY BIRDING
The Dee Estuary is one of the UK’s premier birding
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.
PARK NEWLETTER BY THE RANGER
This newsletter is available by e-mail only.
To receive an electronic copy by e-mail (Adobe
Reader required) please
check the tides before going out to Hilbre. Tides change
Use the safe route; it is dangerous to use any
For full details of when to cross safely and the
safest route to Hilbre
see our page:
your visit to Hilbre Island
All articles and photographs in this web site are © COPYRIGHT of The
Friends of Hilbre
unless specifically otherwise stated.