The Friends of Hilbre Newsletter 
Volume 1, Issue 19 - Online version

 

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Wildlife.   

Inside this issue:

Funding Update.
Wedding.
Seal Watch Training.
Mayor's Visit.
Island Sheep
.
Summer Task.
MIU Events.
Group Visits.
BBC Coast.
Book/DVD Review.
Safety Notice.
Archived Newsletters.

 

 

Hilbre Island by the late John Gittins

Latest Funding News


Our recent application to the local Community Initiative Fund was successful, and we now have a list of books on wildlife, suitable for sixth form and college students.  This small grant will also help to pay for the computer equipment in the Telegraph Station Lookout Centre.  When fully working, the screen will display for visitors the views from the web cameras in Wirral, and information material on discs and videos.   

A major funding application to raise the money needed to renovate parts of the Buoy Master’s House for community day visits, is in hand and the officers of Parks and Countryside and the Friends of Hilbre are working together on the next stage of a regional funding application.  Several generous donations and legacies are helping as well.  The buildings need Planning Permission and Listed Buildings Consent before developments can go ahead, and the Friends of Hilbre will be involved in due course.   

At our AGM in May this year, Hoylake Historical Society generously donated £500 for books and other materials to help with local historical research.  Hilbre has been the subject of very little serious research, as the old stories have been circulated many times, and are not always reliable.  It will be very useful to have books, CDs and reprints of local studies, such as the new CD of Cheshire Sheaf, available for students of local history.  Some of these are already purchased. For further information on our funding activities, please contact: thefriendsofhilbre@hotmail.com.

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A Hilbre Island Romance


Dave and Fiona
© Val Burnett

Dave, the Hilbre Ranger, and Fiona (neé Cox) were married on 26th May at St. Peter’s Church, Heswall. Fiona and Dave met because of the Cox family’s long association with Hilbre Island. A real Hilbre romance! The Friends of Hilbre offer our very best wishes to Dave and Fiona for their future life together.

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Seal Watching Training Day


Common Seal hauled-out on the
Lifeboat Station Slipway  © Colin Jones


Atlantic Grey Seal  © John Rodgers
 

Dave’s talk was informative and well-received by the 18 members who attended the Seal Watching Duty training session on 24 June. Members learned about the Atlantic Grey Seals which haul-out on the West Hoyle Bank in the Dee Estuary and were also taught how to use our wonderful new telescope. A  comprehensive information pack was provided for prospective Seal Watching Volunteers. The training session will enable volunteers to man the telescope and give members of the public an insight into the lives of ‘our’ seals.  

Thank you to all members who attended the training and who have volunteered for Seal Watching Duty on the island in the future.  If you would like to get involved as a volunteer please contact: thefriendsofhilbre@hotmail.com.

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Civic Dignitaries Visit Hilbre

Each year Civic Dignitaries from Wirral, Cheshire and Merseyside plan to have one day out together during the year. In 2004 and this year the groups decided to visit Hilbre Island for their outing. Sue and Val helped out with the provision of refreshments and the guided tours conducted by Rangers Dave and Joe. 

It feels so good to share the island with folk, especially the first time they visit and feel the wonder of our little gem in the estuary. 

We are so lucky!

Left: Mayor of Wirral 2005, Councillor Chris Meaden, and Val Burnett © Colin Jones

 

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Manx Loghton Sheep on Hilbre Island

During the summer, sheep became neighbours of Dave, the Hilbre Ranger, before returning to their home at Tam O’Shanter Urban Farm on Bidston Hill www.tamoshanterfarm.org.uk. Three ewes came back to Hilbre Island at the beginning of September for a further stay.  

The breed - Manx Loghtans - originated from the Calf of Man. The urban farm at Bidston obtain their sheep from an urban farm near Nottingham. The farm manager at Bidston sheers the sheep between the end of May and the beginning of June (excluding the first year sheep). Lambs’  fleeces  are a  deep  chocolate  brown  and  the  older  sheep  a lighter shade during the summer.


Manx Loghton Sheep on Hilbre Island © Val Burnett

Fleece from the Tam O’Shanter flock of Manx Loghtans  is used by members of a spinning and weaving circle and the Heswall Adult Training Centre (amongst others) and then made into toys, hats and mitts etc. The wool lightens in time when turned into cloth or yarn.

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  Summer Task and Picnic Day

The 24 members who attended this day in July had a wonderful time. Balmy weather, a wonderful picnic lunch prepared by Barbara Burton and fantastic company – what more could we wish for!

We did get some work done as well! Tasks included  bracken pulling, litter picking and repairing stone walls. The Telegraph Station was opened for visitors, and the telescope was manned by volunteers for seal watching with members of the public. 

 
Rocks are transported across the island ready to be used for wall building.

It’s a hard life working on the Hilbre chain gang in 32 degree heat!
 
The wallers carefully select their rocks for the skilled task ahead


And finally…the finished result. A perfectly constructed wall which will help to protect Hilbre against erosion.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the island, the bracken-pulling proved to be equally hard work!

 

The above photographs are by Margaret Sixsmith and Val Burnett

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Mobile Information Unit and other Venues

Between March and October this year volunteers will have staffed the Mobile Information Unit 8 times. In addition we have attended Ashton Park Fair, Hilbre Court Pub Fun Day, St. Bridget’s Church Fair and Hoylake Lifeboat Day.

Hoylake Lifeboat Day is always extremely busy and it is good to share the MIU with the Rangers and Dee Estuary Wardens – a good effort for our area. A lifeboat that used to be based on Hilbre, the Chapman and the present lifeboat, the Lady of Hilbre, attracted a great deal of attention. The Chapman was built in 1901 by Thames Ironworks for the Groomsport Lifeboat Station in Ireland and served Hilbre between 1924 - 38.


The Mobile Information Unit at Hoylake Lifeboat Day – 28th August 2006


The Chapman Lifeboat - Val Burnett

Hilbre Lifeboat Station finally closed in 1939 and the Chapman was immediately withdrawn. The Chapman was restored in 2002-03 by John Parr, the owner, Graham Steedman, Shipright,  John Steedman and trainees of the Laird Foundation. The present lifeboat, Lady of Hilbre has been based at Hoylake Lifeboat Station since 1990.Our sales items are still popular.  They help to provide information about Hilbre, give pleasure to folk, and help raise funds for our work on the island. They are often bought as gifts for birthdays and Christmas. If you are looking for presents or stocking fillers the MIU will be at the slipway on 12th October between 10am and 4pm. The Friends of Hilbre will attend additional venues before Christmas, Val will be in touch with volunteers when the dates are confirmed.

Thanks are due to all volunteers who have committed their valuable time. Your work increases public awareness of the existence of our group and of our endeavours to help Hilbre Island Local Nature Reserve. 

Thanks go especially to Colin who unfailingly transports Val and her boxes of goods to and from her destinations on time. Thank you also to Joe Hanik (and the Wirral Ranger Service) for the provision of the MIU and delivering and setting it up for us. Joe has introduced a new element for the Friends and the public regarding the MIU this year. He has created a presentation on Hilbre which visitors can view on a monitor on board - much to their delight. 

If you wish to join our team of volunteers please contact: thefriendsofhilbre@hotmail.com


Blue Watch visit to Hilbre


Members of Blue Watch lead a seashore wall
exploring  the rock pools,
by Neil Kelly

Blue Watch is a conservation group set up by members of staff from Blue Planet Aquarium at Ellesmere Port. The members wanted to organise conservation tasks in the local community to provide Blue Planet staff and members of the public with an opportunity to get involved in practical conservation work. They also want to use their expert knowledge to educate people about the effects of human activity on the marine environment. As well as organising beach cleaning days, Blue Watch also lead three walks across to Hilbre during the summer.

Blue Watch is a conservation group set up by members of staff from Blue Planet Aquarium at Ellesmere Port. The members wanted to organise conservation tasks in the local community to provide Blue Planet staff and members of the public with an opportunity to get involved in practical conservation work. They also want to use their expert knowledge to educate people about the effects of human activity on the marine environment. As well as organising beach cleaning days, Blue Watch also lead three walks across to Hilbre during the summer. 

Finn Kelly took part in the event on 23 July, which was lead by Blue Watch members Katy Sewerd, Ami Clarke, Danny Rodriguez and Heather Graham. Finn writes "I really enjoyed the walk out to Hilbre. We were able to fish in the rock pools with nets, and I found crabs, shrimps and starfish, and lots of different shells. I had read a book in school about seashore life, and I tried to find as many things from the book as possible. I was able to tell if crabs were male or female by turning them over and looking at the shape of their bodies. If I had any questions, the Blue Planet people were able to answer them for me, and they were very friendly. I am in the middle of the photo next to my sister Freya. She is holding a starfish. When we walked back, we could hear all the people at Hoylake cheering for Tiger Woods." 

A Visit to Hilbre by Chinese local residents and students

Mrs. Catherine Li of Birkenhead Multi Cultural Centre’s Chinese Group helped to arrange a special visit to the islands in May.  Ages varied from one year to retired members, and three Chinese languages were represented.  One student, with excellent English, had arrived in Liverpool from Beijing only a few weeks before, to study engineering at the University.  Mrs. Li is a tutor at the adult English lessons, and at the children and young people, who learn to value their own culture and language.  Hilbre was not strange to many of the party, who had visited before, but all were pleased to be able to see the Lookout Building exhibition, and to collect leaflets.  The Friends of Hilbre have expressed interest in conducting visits for groups new to visiting the islands, and the success of this occasion showed that the work of preparation and making contacts is well worth the time and effort.

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Member’s articles are welcome. They may be edited to fit the available space. Please send your contributions by e-mail to: thefriendsofhilbre@hotmail.com

 


BBC 'Coast' Team Visit Hilbre

Do you remember the last series of the COAST programme on TV? The team from Network Series BBC Wales (and other regions) produced a second series and visited Hilbre earlier this year! The ‘Coast’ team travelled from Holyhead to Liverpool – following the route of the chain of Telegraph Stations built by the Liverpool Dock Trustees in the 19th century. Hilbre Island and the Dee Estuary received a visit from the ‘Coast’ filming unit and had a small slot on the programme shown on 2nd November.

Left: Dave and Fiona with the BBC ‘Coast’ Filming Unit on Hilbre Island, © Val Burnett

  
Hilbre Telegraph Station by Val Burnett

The present Telegraph Station building on Hilbre was built in 1841 and is now used as an Interpretative Centre for the benefit of visitors.

 


 West Kirby Festival Friday 4th Dec, 4pm onwards

Please note in your diary that the Friends of Hilbre will have sales items available on our stall outside West Kirby Concourse - including the new book and DVD on Hilbre!
See below.

Review of Recent Publications

HILBRE UNSEEN – WINDOWS ON A WILDERNESS

40 minute DVD film written and directed by Dave Wade, price£9.99

Written, edited and narrated by Dave Wade, and released in August 2006, the film contains a wide range of interest: wildlife, fishing, conservation, bird-ringing, history and experts’ talking heads. Much of the footage was shot in the 1990s, and thus is largely archive material. It records the thoughts of well-known people like John Gittins and Vicky Seager, then the islands’ resident Ranger. Members of the Hilbre Bird Observatory describe their research work tracing bird migration, and its worldwide ecological importance. Most of all, the film shows the special atmosphere of the islands, and the love they inspire. It is clear that visitors are welcome, but must always respect the wildlife for which Hilbre is a sanctuary. There was, and is, little water or fuel, and there was then little public interpretation, apart from talks and some guided visits.

But there have been changes since. New technology is discreetly turning Hilbre into a laboratory for tides and movements of sand banks, and providing non-polluting electricity. The exhibition room has been opened in the Telegraph Station Lookout Building, to reveal the island to visitors, and to help in educating the public about conservation, as advocated in some of the filmed interviews. The Rangers conduct more and more school parties, and University and specialist groups are becoming interested in researching the life of the estuary. The voluntary support group, the Friends of Hilbre, has been formed. Perhaps there will be a sequel to this DVD, to bring us up to date.

As an archive, and a delightful souvenir of Hilbre for its fans, this DVD should be popular. It was prepared for release by Mark Wells.

DVDs are £9.99 plus postage and packing and can be ordered from

mwells.art@internet.com
{please mention the Friends of Hilbre when you order your DVD}

The DVD is also available from the Friends of Hilbre at the MIU caravan (occasionally at Dee Lane, West Kirby); Wirral Country Park, Thurstaston; other events; and local bookshops.

HILBRE, ISLANDS IN THE DEE ESTUARY

by Margaret Sixsmith

Price £12.95

As a local award-winning photographer, Margaret Sixsmith has always set a high standard for landscape and wildlife studies, and the artistic treatment of her subjects. These feature in her new book, published by Countywise in July this year. The close up shots of sea creatures are fascinating, and the landscapes beautifully constructed. She has spent a considerable time gathering factual information for the text from bird watchers and historians. Being a wildlife expert herself, she has drawn on her own experience in portraying the marine and shore life and land plants. The result is a very enjoyable art book as well as a source of information about the islands of Hilbre, and the estuary around them. Lovers of this part of the world will enjoy a book which has been wanted for many years.

The book is also available from the Friends of Hilbre at the MIU caravan (occasionally at Dee Lane, West Kirby); Wirral Country Park, Thurstaston; other events; and local bookshops.

Member’s articles are welcome. They may be edited to fit the available space. Please send your contributions by e-mail to: thefriendsofhilbre@hotmail.com


SAFETY NOTICE

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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