The Friends of Hilbre Newsletter 
Volume 1, Issue 14, November 04 - Online version


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

Inside this issue:

Thank you Chris!
What we've been up to Summer of 2004.
Hilbre Island, a friend for life!
Stephen Hesford MP, visit to Hilbre.
Ranger's Report - Hilbre's Flora
Safety Notice.

Thank you Chris!

The late John Gittins on Hilbre
(© Richard Smith)
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
Pink Champagne?

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
Email us.

Val Burnett

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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,, also 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 more.

© Sue Craggs

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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 island.

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).

However, 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!

© Peter Williams
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.

© Julie Somerville

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Social event
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'

Refreshments provided
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 future.

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 support.

© Neil Kelly

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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 Email 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 Hilbre.

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.

Rock Sea-lavender (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 requirements.

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.

Rock Sea-spurrey is found on sea-cliffs, exposed rocks and seawalls around the western coast of Britain & Ireland.

Sea Pink or Thrift (Armeria maritima)

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 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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