The Friends of Hilbre Newsletter 
Volume 1, Issue 15, May 05 - Online version


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Open Days.
Plan Your Visit.
How to Join.
MIU Events.
Volunteers' Work.

Inside this issue:

Annual General Meeting.
Hilbre Island and Wind Generated Power.
Help! We need advice & help with fund raising.
Members page.
Hilbre's History in print
Ranger's Report.
Mystery Wheels Found Buried in Sand
Information Events and Volunteers.
Progress in Hilbre's Restoration.
Safety Notice.
Latest Newsletter.

Annual General Meeting

The Friends of Hilbre
Annual General Meeting
West Kirby Concourse
25th May 2005 @ 7.30 pm

This is your chance to hear a summary of all the activities that have been undertaken by The Friends of Hilbre over the last year. You will also have the opportunity to ask the committee questions and to raise issues about the Hilbre Islands and the activities of the FOH.

Members can nominate candidates for the committee, so please let us know well in advance if you have names to offer: e-mail

All the committee are willing to stand again, in spite of having worked our socks off this year!  There are three officers jobs:
Chairman, Secretary, Treasurer, and 6 other general committee posts.
The Hilbre Ranger, David Cavanagh, is always an ex-officio member of the committee, and our main link to the Council.

There will be no major changes of constitution this year, but we hope to introduce membership cards, when members renew their subscriptions, due in May.

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Hilbre Island and Wind Generated Power

In February 2005 a small wind turbine was installed on Hilbre Island with the intention of generating enough electricity for the Victorian complex of buildings and other installations on the island. The wind turbine is approximately 20ft high and the diameter across the blades is approximately 9ft. The cost to build the wind turbine was about £15,500 and funding for the project came from the Wirral Ranger Service {£2,000}, Local Agenda 21 scheme {£2,000}, Windscape Energy Centre {£3,000}, with the remainder from the Proudman Oceanographic Observatory. Wirral Borough Council paid for the foundations to be dug (approximately £400).

The wind turbine was conveyed from Scotland and arrived on Hilbre Island on
9th February 2005 and  was later erected in the area of land behind the ranger's house

The wind turbine provides the power for Proudman Oceanographic Laboratoryís scientific equipment that is sited on the tall mast on the island. This mast was erected in the 1960s and replaced an earlier one put up in 1912, it was originally used as a giant theodolite to measure the height of sandbanks in the Liverpool Bay but with the introduction of satellite surveying and depth sounding it became redundant.

In 2002 the mast was shortened by about 20ft, subsequently various installations have been set up on the mast by Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory. Their equipment includes: radar, a rain gauge, a wind speed gauge, a wind direction indicator, a temperature gauge, a humidity gauge, two types of light gauges, and a new very accurate wind speed and direction indicator. A web cam and telemetry equipment installed at the top of the mast by Steve Cumberlidge for Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory provides valuable visual information of the surrounding area. Members of the public can log on to view the images at:

The wind turbine will provide power for scientific equipment installed
 by Proudman Ocean Oceonographic Laboratory on the tall mast
adjacent to the former Telegraph Station Lookout building.  

The resident rangerís home {formerly the telegraph keepers house}, the bunkhouse, the Hilbre Islandsí Interpretative Centre {formerly the telegraph station lookout} and the anticipated residential educational centre {formerly the buoy masters house, store and workshop} should all benefit. The generator is still serviceable and if the storage batteries go low for lack of wind it will automatically switch on long enough to charge the batteries.

Val Burnett 1.3.05

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Help! We need advice & help with fundraising. 

The committee members of the Friends of Hilbre are doing our best to learn the skills of applying for funding.

There are a variety of projects planned for Hilbre, on the landscape, the wild life, and visitorsí facilities. This will all take place much more quickly if we have some experienced and expert help. The Council officers are a grand source of advice and contacts, but do not have the time to make our applications for us. Is there anyone among our members with this kind of professional expertise?

Can you give a few hours of your time to help Hilbre?

Please get in touch with us by email:

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Members Page

Do you have any memories, or reflections about Hilbre Island?
We would love to hear from you. Please send your contributions for
the newsletter by

Thank you Jean!
Jean Huntington, a Friends of Hilbre member and volunteer on the Mobile Information Unit, has kindly allowed us to copy some of her photographs for the budding Friends of Hilbre archive. Jeanís photographs are a record of her visits to Hilbre - they even include one of Jean as a wee lass sitting on the saddle of her dadís bicycle en route to Hilbre in 1931!

Photos between 1946-48 and the 1950s include Jean, as a beautiful young woman, relaxing with friends and family, collecting driftwood and preparing for a meal at The Moorings. A later image
entitled ĎThe Whiteley and Billington Families 91st year 1997, [at] The Mooringsí shows a large gathering of folk throughout the generations. Love of the island continues and photos taken in 2003 show Jeanís daughter and grandchild continuing the family tradition of visiting Hilbre Island.

If anyone else has recollections or memorabilia about Hilbre Island please

Val Burnett.

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  Hilbre's History in Print 

In December 2004, Sue Craggsís article on Hilbreís medieval past was published in Cheshire History, a journal issued by the Local History Society of Cheshire. Copies should be held by local libraries in Wirral and Cheshire, and in the Cheshire County Record Office in Duke Street, Chester.

In her account, she tries to examine some of the stories which have grown up about Hilbreís past residents, particularly the monks who once lived here. If you want to go on believing the fun stories about the sea drawing back in a rescue bid (like the Red Sea), and a famous pilgrimage, and a medieval lighthouse for mariners, she says ďThese stories are fun, and people like to hear them, but they are not accurate reporting of the past. The real events can often be more interesting, because there were linked with the customs of that timeĒ.

She regrets that one piece of evidence only came to light after the article was sent in, from some friendsí visit to France last summer; the abbot of St.Evroult in Normandy was given West Kirby and Hilbre, as a result of his fund-raising appeal. He visited William Iís court in England, asking for money for his abbey, and got an odd assortment of little villages all over England. So the present funding appeals (this time for Hilbre itself) have a very long history, going back nearly 1000 years!

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Ranger's Report

Hello Friends,
Well, there has been a lot happening since I last wrote, small projects have progressed and some larger projects have at last been completed after many years of work by both myself and the Friends. Iíll mention three of the important things here.

Firstly, as visitors may not have noticed, during the winter, the track running down the centre of the top of the island has been repaired. This may not seem like much to pedestrian visitors, but, as anybody who has arrived in my Landrover for the Friends of Hilbre task days can testify, the ride is much smoother. Also, being on the tall side, itís nice not to hit my head on the Landrover as I drive off and on the island.

The work was carried out by park staff from Frankby Cemetery as part of the Councils winter works programme, so a big thanks to them.

The Lifeboat slipway has had a temporary repair. This repair was done to ensure the slipway did not become more damaged during the winter storms. Each stone on the broken and exposed edge had two holes drilled through it and into the bedrock. Stainless steel rods were then placed in these holes and concrete was sprayed along the broken edge. This concrete held in the grout which was then pumped into the holes filling the void under the slabs and securing the slabs to the bedrock.

The repairs were tested to the extreme by some severe storms at the start of the year. These storms damaged stone walls, fences, roofs, and part of my house and even moved some of the huge sandstone blocks that previously came away from the lifeboat slipway, but the repairs held firm.

The newest addition to the island is the wind turbine that was put up in my garden in February. This will provide power for my house, the bunkhouse, the Telegraph Station Lookout Interpretative Centre and Proudman Oceanographic Laboratoryís webcam, radar and weather station. It will also provide power for any future use of the Buoy Masterís buildings. We are also having solar panels linked into the system to make the most of any of Hilbreís weather conditions. The turbine replaces the large diesel generator, which was costly, polluting and noisy.

Since the turbine went up it has provided continuous power even on windless days as it has a set of batteries that can store enough power for about three days careful use.

Work is always going on behind the scenes and there are more projects progressing all the time.

So thanks to all the Friends, and donít forget to say hello if you visit the island and see me repairing some of the fences damaged in the storms.


Dave Ė Hilbre Ranger

Mystery Wheels Found Buried in the Sand!

On 19th March when Richard Smith was walking from West Kirby to Hilbre Island his sharp eyes discovered something protruding from the sand. On closer investigation the item in question seemed to be the top edge of an old wheel. Over the next couple of days a few other inquisitive diggers joined Richard and we unearthed what appeared to be the remains of two wheels joined together by an axle and with two large springs. There was also a piece of shaped wood about 20 feet away that could have been part of a cradle for carrying a yacht.

Left: all that was sticking out of the sand when the wheel was first discovered was the top couple of inches of the rim.

Incidentally, the group who finally unearthed the wheels were representative of Dee Estuary Volunteer Wardens, Dee Estuary Birding, Hilbre Bird Observatory, North Wirral Coastal Park Rangers, Wirral Council, and The Friends of Hilbre!

The mystery wheels were transported to Hilbre Island and are now waiting identification and conservation. Suggestions as to their use have included that they could be part of an Edwardian boat trolley, or the base of an old cockle trolley.

Right: the wheels, axle, springs and various other miscellaneous bits and pieces emerged from the wet sand after two hours of digging.

If anyone has knowledge of the origins of the wheels and can identify them and their purpose could you please contact:

Location of find
The wheelbase was found on a direct line from Lingdale Road, West Kirby to the south end of Middle Eye Ė an estimated 300 yards from Middle Eye. The position in relation to Little Eye was about 400 yards from Little Eye - about due NNW (i.e. a line parallel with the shore from Little Eye}.

Description of Wheels
Single more intact wheel: There appeared to be 12 spokes made of wood and some sort of corroded metal joined at the centre by a large wheel hub. The circumference of the wheel was made of wood rimmed with metal, probably iron. The second wheel was in a worse state of preservation, it had a similar hub and spokes but the rim of the wheel was missing. The wheels were joined by a wooden axel and there appeared to be large metal springs on the inner side of each wheel

Approximate measurements of intact wheel:
Hub width: 12 cm.
Diameter across wheel: 58cm.
Outside of hub to outer edge of wheel: 23cm.
Rim: 6cm {includes metal rim}.
Rim: 4cm {not including metal rim}.
Edge of rim width: 7cm.
Axel at its narrowest: 10cm.

Val Burnett
Photographs by Colin Jones

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Information events and volunteers

Mobile Information Unit Volunteers 2005
Will volunteers please contact Val as we now have the dates for the Mobile Information Unit. New volunteers are welcome to join the team; we need people to man stalls at events as well as the MIU. This years dates included in this website.

The MIU and the events we attend help to keep the needs of the Hilbre Islands in the public eye. Volunteers provide information and promote educational literature relative to the different aspects of Hilbre; pictorial and informative displays are also available. We also sell items, some of which are created by members - the profits from these items help to swell our funds for the benefit of the Hilbre Islands.

Volunteers manned the MIU eight times during 2004 in a variety of weather conditions; another 3 bookings were cancelled due to weather conditions etc.

Slideshows and talks
Sue Craggs, Allen Burton & Barbara Burton, Dave Cavanagh, and Val Burnett have given slideshows and talks on Hilbre Island throughout the area, any donations from these has been given to The Friends of Hilbre funds.

Fairs and Stalls
Volunteers also manned stalls at other venues during 2004: The Friends of Ashton Park Fair, West Kirby; Wirral Environmental Network Fair, West Kirby; St. Bridgetís Church Fair, West Kirby; Hoylake Lifeboat Day; Wirral Environmental Fair, Heswall; West Kirby Trade and Commerce Fair, and at three of the Hilbre Islandsí Telegraph Station Lookout Interpretative Centre Open Days.

Conservation Volunteering
Last year we were very busy working on the island with many conservation tasks including :-
Working on the Telegraph Office and the Bunkhouse, painting and making repairs; pulling bracken to enable the native flora to flourish; helping to maintain the sea defences by pointing the brickwork.etc.

This yearís list of conservation activities are included in this newsletter. Activities will include repairs to the buildings, fencing, building a new hide for bird watching, bracken pulling, maintaining the sea defences; seal watch and many more.

So come along, have some fun and learn a new skill. No previous experience necessary. 

Are you interested in practical tasks to help to preserve the historic buildings and the Island habitat?


If you think you can help please email:

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Progress in Hilbre's Restoration

Since the last Newsletter was issued, there have been earnest talks about funding quite large sums for repairs and restoration of the broken slip way, and the Victorian 2 storey Buoy Masterís House.

Visitors to Hilbre will see how the stub end of the slip way has been protected for the coming winter with metal rods to pin the masonry and a temporary concrete capping. The engineers, from Charles Warren in Hoylake, said that it would not look elegant, but like a plaster cast on a broken leg, would eventually come off.

The Friends of Hilbre are trying to get funds to Wirral Borough Council to pay for the slip wayís reconstruction, using as much as possible of the original stone, scattered by the storms of the last 4 or 5 winters.

The slip will not be used for boats; this is a nature reserve, so resting shore birds will be left undisturbed, and the slip way will become a piece of historic landscape, and a place for visitors to walk and enjoy the view of the open sea.

The house, built in about 1850 for the buoy master, by his employers, Trinity House is correctly called Trinity Cottage. Its use as a holiday home by the Hilbre Island Club (a gentlemenís club based originally in Liverpool) gave it an alternative name, used by the present Hilbre families.

Its Wirral Council name is the Buoy Masterís House, and it will become the Hilbre Island Centre when all the work is done. Raising funding is again a huge task, and Wirral Borough Councilís officers are helping us at Friends of Hilbre to search for and send off applications, as well as processing their own.

Nothing will be visible to the general public for a while, but this does not mean that frantic activity is not going on behind the scenes. The whole point of this project is to look after a valuable nature reserve, with a fascinating history, and access for the public to enjoy this wonderful place.
Eventually, there should be courses for schools, colleges, local societies, and university research projects, housed in the collection of buildings, which is at present barred to visitors.
The details of its uses are being considered now, so if any members have ideas to contribute, please e-mail:

Sue Craggs 

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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 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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