Thank you Chris!
The late John Gittins on Hilbre
|Recently Chris Gittins
generously donated some of his late brother John’s photographs,
postcards and Newspaper cuttings to the archive which the Friends of
Hilbre are in the process of forming. Thank you Chris for your
thoughtfulness. John’s images provide a link with the past, and I pass
on to our members questions arising from some of them. I hope they
bring your own cheerful or poignant memories to the surface! Were you
transported by pony and cart to Hilbre Island for a day out?
Do you recall the old wrought iron
entrance gate to Hilbre? Did you see the lifeboat house, now a ruin,
with it’s roof on? Or wonder why painted boards stood in a line the
length of a field? Do you remember
the first hydrographic mast erected in 1912? Did you meet Kay Bailey
riding from her home on Hilbre to school at West Kirby on her gelding
Have you seen sheep grazing near the 19th century buoy masters
workshop or sailed close to the Grey Seal colony on the West Hoyle
Bank? Did you picnic near Lion Rock in Niffy Bay? Have you experienced
the magic of Hilbre dressed in snow? Chris hadn’t visited Hilbre for
some years and decided to join some of us on a day when we opened the
Hilbre Islands’ Interpretative Centre to the public. Friends of Hilbre
volunteers were also engaged in re-pointing small sandstone walls and
litter picking - Chris joined in with enthusiasm! Staying on Hilbre
when there is a high tide is always brings a sense of peaceful
enchantment. If you would like to contribute your own recollections or
memorabilia about Hilbre Island to our archive please
Back to 'Inside this issue'.
What we've been up to, Summer of 2004!
The committee members of The Friends of Hilbre meet about once a month,
and have lots of work to do between meetings.
We work as a committee, and do not make individual decisions. But we meet
people from the Wirral council, which is the owner (as a body) of the
islands of Hilbre. We are their voluntary helpers, with the jobs of doing
only authorised tasks on Hilbre, and making efforts to raise funds.
Our meetings are often concerned with finding out what is planned for the
islands, and what we would ask the council to consider doing. We cannot
make their decisions for them, but we can bring experience and common
sense to bear as requests.
|Having said all that, we
can do a lot. Our volunteers have continued to clean up and staff the
Telegraph Station Lookout building, as a public exhibition. It can
only be open when there is someone there to look after it, and to meet
visitors. Our timetable of Open Days has been made public this year,
and we are preparing a similar one for 2005. Please contact a
committee member if you want to help.
Renovation of buildings and the slip way
on Hilbre have been given a lot of attention. Even though there are few
changes to be seen as yet, we are working hard with the council,
engineers, etc. to prepare for building work in future.
The proposed small wind generator, to be
put up in a paddock for the Rangers, and Proudman Laboratories’ survey
equipment, will probably go ahead, though hardly visible when erected. It
will replace the diesel generator, and so remove air pollution, which at
present cannot be avoided.
|We are providing some of
the funds for a reprinting of the Explore Hilbre leaflet. You will be
familiar with the Caravan (the MIU) at Dee Lane nearly every month,
providing goods and information about the Dee and the islands. It has
proved very popular.
Our web site is now up and running on
it is hosted within the Dee Estuary Birding website,
well worth a look.
Our committee has worked hard, and learnt
a lot about partnership with public organisations and funding bodies. We
are always glad to have offers of suitable help from able bodied members
to work on our tasks days on the island. In this way we have cleaned and
restored several features - buildings, wall, gardens - and hope to do
Back to 'Inside this issue'.
A member's story:
Hilbre Island -
a friend for life!
Hilbre Island—a friend for life!
On the 7th August 2004, I ventured out to Hilbre Island, Wow! What an
experience! The weather was perfect with the sun beating down and a cool
sea breeze, the beauty of the island was intoxicating, the only
disappointment was that I hadn't brought any binoculars to view the seals.
A sandbank full of black dots was all that could be seen.
Walking home I noticed a poster that advertised ‘The Friends of Hilbre
Island, in search for somebody to participate in seal watch’ - this is the
job for me! Eager with my £5.00 membership I met with Marianthi and Nicky
at the slipway, West Kirby. This was a good start to the day, meeting
friendly, like-minded people.
Once the information stand (the Mobile Information Unit at Dee Lane) had
been successfully set up, we went off in the Ranger’s Landrover to Hilbre.
Uncertain of how much work was to be expected of me, I was pleased to be
informed that the task would only last a few hours, due to the tides. This
would ease me in slowly and be a gentle introduction to the needs of the
|Firstly, there was a
pleasant tour around the Buoy Master's buildings, whilst we moved some
tools around. It was sad to see how badly deteriorated the buildings
were, as they have great potential. I am excited to know that I could
be part of such a worthwhile project (to renovate them).
the day’s task was not so appealing, filling in the cracks in the
sandstone (sea defences) was not my idea of fun, Yet, I kid you not–
it was quite exhilarating. Fresh air, beautiful views and friendly
banter from ‘Mike the observer’- even he caved in and joined the fun!
of Hilbre bird Observatory.
Colin, the birdwatcher, arrived at the
most appropriate time with his binoculars. Six or seven seals floated
around in the sea a few feet away from the island. This was really
exciting. Apparently, the seals don’t usually come on to the island,
except as a very rare occurrence.
I felt honoured to have seen the seals playing in the water. Many people
had been disappointed, that day, because the seals had been so far away on
the sandbank. I think that providing a telescope and informing the
visitors about the seals, is a jolly good idea—a task I shall definitely
volunteer for, in the future. I have fallen in love with Hilbre and hope
to be a good friend for life.
Back to 'Inside this issue'.
Wednesday 16th March, 7.30pm
At Westbourne Hall, West Kirby
Talk by Malcolm Ingham
(Wirral Borough Council Wildlife Officer) entitled
'Owls, Red Squirrels and Wildcats'
to confirm attendance
Stephen Hesford, visit to Hilbre
West Kirby resident and Friends of Hilbre
Life Member, Stephen Hesford M.P. was keen to arrange a visit to Hilbre.
Stephen was prompted to visit Hilbre by the recent publicity surrounding
the plans for the study centre which have recently been approved by the
Council. On a wet and stormy afternoon, we were glad of a lift across from
Dave, but the rain stopped when we arrived on Hilbre so that Sue Craggs,
Val Burnett and Neil Kelly could give Stephen a tour of Hilbre, with the
focus being on some of our recent achievements and our plans for the
Like many visitors to the Island, Stephen was interested in the display
boards in the Lookout building, but we thought he would be blown across to
Talacre when he climbed up the steps to enjoy the view from the top.
The highlight of the afternoon was definitely a tour of the Buoy master's
buildings. Some of the tools and equipment used by the Buoy master for
maintaining the buoys in the Dee are still in storage and it would be
wonderful if we were able to display them permanently.
Sue Craggs commented that she felt like an estate agent showing us around
the Buoy master's House. Although it is in need of some interior
modernisation, the house certainly has lots of character. It is in
surprisingly good order given that it hasn't been in use for some years,
and the study centre plans offer a real opportunity to allow this
beautiful building to be used on a regular basis.
We have been very impressed at how much work the Rangers have recently
carried out to present plans to the Council for the study centre and for
the repairs to the slipway. Now that the plans for both projects have been
approved, the next step is to raise the funding. Both projects will
require significant levels of funding, and we have already identified a
number of potential funders to apply for grants.
Stephen has indicated that he has a number of suggestions in this area,
and we hope to arrange to meet with him in the near future to discuss his
ideas further. In obtaining funding for the larger projects on the
horizon, the backing and assistance of our local M.P is likely to be a
real help, and we are grateful to Stephen for his interest and continuing
© Neil Kelly
'Inside this issue'.
Do you want more information
about FOH activities?
Details about all our activities are published in
the newsletter and the rest of this website throughout the year (eg
task lists). Please
us if you wish to find out further information.
Ranger's Report - Hilbre's Flora
The first difficulty in writing a short
article on Hilbre's Flora, was what to include and what to leave out. In
the end I decided to limit this article to four species, in order to write
more about them, rather than producing a long list of what is found on
The four I decided all have the word
'sea' in their name and are therefore examples of the more specialised
flora of Hilbre. The first two are nationally rare or scarce, and the
second two are typical plants of 'Maritime Cliff and Slope' habitat, which
is the most important habitat on Hilbre.
(Limonium britannicum subspecies celticum).
A small perennial with basal rosette of small leaves and a tall
central stem, bearing flowering branches. The flowers are
lilac-lavender coloured, spread along the upper edge of the branches,
each flower has 5 petals and appears in July to September.
Rock Sea-lavenders are confined to
sea-cliffs and rocky coasts, this sub-species of Rock Sea-lavender
only occurs between Dorset & Cumbria. Hilbre Island is one of only
five places in the world that this sub-species occurs, and it is
classified as 'near threatened' in the Red Data Book.
Sea Spleenwort (Asplenium marinum)
A bright green shiny
looking evergreen fern, forming tufts within crevices and cliffs. The
plant has no flowers, but produces spores on the underside of each
frond, these ripen from mid July to mid August.
It is the only fern of the British Isles that is confined to cliffs
and caves which are exposed to sea spray, and is predominantly found
in the South and West of Britain.
It is an internationally scarce species due to its specific habitat
Rock Sea-spurrey (Spergularia rupicola)
A small low growing perennial with a woody base, from which arises a
branching stem. The whole plant is glandular and has a strange sticky
feel. The leaves form dense clumps of 5 small leaves off the stem or
side branch. The flowers are small with 5 vivid pink petals, appearing
in June to September.
is found on sea-cliffs, exposed rocks and seawalls around the western
coast of Britain & Ireland.
Sea Pink or Thrift
Thrift is a perennial, growing as a
low springy cushion with erect flowering stems 5 to 20cm tall.
The leaves form a dense basal rosette, are hairless, narrow, pointed
and up to 10cm long.
The scented flowers are small, numerous, pink (or white) at the end of
the stem in a round head 1 - 3cm across. The flowers appear early in
May, until finishing in August.
Thrift is abundant on most coastlines, found on rocks, cliffs and
salt-marshes. It is also seen on mountain sides and spoil-heaps old copper
and lead mines in the Peak District and Highlands of Scotland. The plant
appeared on the reverse side of the old 12 sided ‘threepenny bit’ coin.
© Adam King, Senior Ranger
Do you have any stories or
memories about Hilbre Island?
We would love to hear from you. Please send your
contributions for the newsletter to the editor by
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
PLEASE NOTE: All articles and
photographs in this web site are ©
COPYRIGHT of Friends of Hilbre unless
specifically otherwise stated.
Back to 'Inside this issue'.