The Friends of Hilbre Newsletter 
Volume 1, Issue 16, October 05 - Online version


main menu

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

Inside this issue:

What We Did This Year.
The Mobile Information Unit Report.
Website Report.
A Project for the Future: Hilbre Island Centre.
Hilbre Sunday - A personal recollection of halcyon days
Starfish on Hilbre.
Plans for membership and newsletters 2006.
Advance Notice: Public Open Days - 2006.
Advance Notice: AGM 2006.
Latest Newsletter.

What We Did This Year

In May, we were entered for Mersey Basin Funding by Wirral Borough Council, hoping to start the conversion of the old Buoy Masters’ House (Trinity Cottage) to a community education centre in the next two or three years.

Volunteer help will be vital for the simple tasks of cleaning and preparing the Centre.

We applied to appear on Granada TV’s heritage show, but the bid was unsuccessful - this time!

The Lookout has opened eight times, as advertised on the web, and had more than 1000 visitors.
The Mobile Information Unit has been open on West Kirby slip way and at local events and fairs; see Open Days. We gave eight slide talks to local clubs in the last year.

Volunteers will have helped on Hilbre 17 times, pulling weeds, picking litter, painting walls and window frames, cleaning, talking to visitors.

We were praised by the Council for Voluntary Services office in West Kirby, as part of the celebration of the Year of Volunteers 2005. Well done, everyone!

Right: The Friends of Hilbre at St. Bridget's Church Fair.

The committee met as usual nine times this year, and have sent off funding applications and talked to officers of Wirral Borough Council and the Rangers.

Many thanks to all the official helpers, too! Rangers and Council officers have given very welcome support. Thank you to Marianthi for her advice on funding applications.

Thanks to our retiring Newsletter Editor, Nicky, whose high quality work was much appreciated.


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The Mobile Information Unit Report

Friends of Hilbre members will have manned the Rangers’ MIU caravan at Dee Lane, and had bookings at other venues, such as Ashton Park Open Day and Hoylake Lifeboat Day - a total of 25 times.

The caravan is a popular feature, and attracts good publicity for Hilbre Nature Reserve, knowledge of the tides, personal stories of visits to Hilbre and family connections with the island. Val’s keyrings, fridge magnets and bookmarks, and cards and photos by Margaret Sixsmith are sold in large numbers. Her work and that of the volunteers’ team have raised useful funds. They provide a valuable contact with the public, as part of the Friends of Hilbre’s information service. Val is grateful to her team of 16 volunteers. If members are interested in helping, please contact her by email

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Website Review 

The Friends of Hilbre website has proved a valuable means of communication within a local context and with the world at large. Between January and October 2005 the site was visited about 7,000 times. Our warmest thanks are offered to Richard Smith for the help he continues to give Val in maintaining The Friends of Hilbre website. Richard’s own web site on just about everything you need to know about the birds of the Dee Estuary is definitely worth a visit and can be found at:

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A Project for the Future: Hilbre Island Centre

There are several Victorian stone and brick buildings on Hilbre. David, the resident Ranger, lives in one, another is the Lifeboat House and slip, along with the recording Tide Gauge. The third was put up for the Trinity House Buoy Master, and later rented to local families. Wirral Borough Council now hopes to open it, after renovation, as a community education building, to house groups booked in advance. It could provide day courses on wild life, marine ecology for schools and colleges, art, photography and creative writing. There is a lot to do first, including securing funds to pay for the repair and upkeep of these listed buildings: Grade 2 listed, which means that external alterations must be sympathetic to the style of the place.

Buoymaster's House

Members of FoH will have to be patient: the Centre cannot open fully for at least 2 years. But there may be privileged visits for selected groups. The FoH committee has contacted several sources of funds, and is working on applications, along with Wirral Council officers. The Carbon Trust has advised us on environmentally friendly sources of energy, water supply, and waste disposal.

We are in the middle of sending out publicity sheets to schools, youth groups, adult education providers, and groups learning English for Speakers of Other Languages, and people with disabilities. Schools have been invited to record the development of the Centre in pictures and writing. Hilbre’s facilities should be open to as many people as possible, without endangering the wild life in this very important nature reserve. There will be no concrete paths or hand rails, but access is a matter we are thinking about very carefully. See Letter from the Chairman.

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  Hilbre Sunday - A personal recollection of halcyon days

When I was young, Hilbre Sunday in the summer was part of my life. Every other Sunday the tide was suitable for me, and many other people, to go the two miles over the sands to Hilbre. We did not bother with tide tables; being local we knew the tides, and we also had a good knowledge of the tidal gutters. We would set out at approximately 8am. Taking with us some sandwiches, a bottle (glass) of ‘pop’, this was usually ‘cream soda’, ‘sarsaparilla’ or ‘dandelion and burdock’ or ‘Tizer’ (The Appetizer). On the way, if we had any coupons left, we would get some sweets from Joy’s sweetshop. We wore shoes or pumps, but when we got to the shore it was barefoot all the way over to the island. Weaver fish were unknown to us; all we worried about was broken glass, barnacles and jellyfish. It is a wonderful feeling walking through the gutters with the sand under your feet and the shrimps darting to and fro between your toes.

Clothing was casual, we all had our ‘cossies’ on under our shorts. We had no watches, no sunglasses, no sun cream, no compass and of course no mobile phone. Some days we would follow the tide out, other days we had to race over to the island as the tide was flooding in. If we were a little late it would often mean wading waist deep between the middle island and the main island. We may have been foolish but we always got there safely. Many are the times I and others have come a cropper on the slippery rocks. One very important inclusion was our Permit, this was issued on request to any ratepayer, and it entitled the holder, and five visitors to visit the island. It was issued at the Hoylake UDC offices in Riversdale Road.

In those days the island still had railings, and a gate, the keeper often asked to see the permit. The day was spent exploring the island, swimming, and meeting friends, as these Sunday trips were quite a social occasion, some groups would even bring with them, a ‘wind up’ gramophone. The bracing sea air, combined with the fragrance of the sea pinks is a lasting memory, also the Atlantic grey seals on the Hoyle Bank. We saw very little litter, as this was the age before plastic bags and plastic bottles, and most people left only footprints. A lot of swimming was done off the northwest tip of the island when the tide was at its highest. Plenty of deep water, so diving and leaping off the rocks was the thing. Some people used the old springboard. Towels, we did not take, we ‘air dried’. Some people who were not used to the sun and sea air got badly sunburnt. We always tried to find some empty ‘Pop’ bottles, these along with our own, would be taken back to the shop for a penny refund, this would boost our pocket money.

Once the tide was low enough we would make our way back home. The keeper would make sure that people left the island before the tide turned. If we were short of time we would often cut straight back to West Kirby from the middle island, but this route was very muddy. Occasionally there was a heavy sea mist. This was no problem, we ‘knew our way’, and we always got straight to the slipway at West Kirby. Many years later my good friend John Gittins told me that he never went over to the island without a compass. Were we foolish? Or, ‘just lucky?’

Maurice Grisenthwaite, 2005

Maurice has also published an article about Hilbre Sundays in the current issue of ‘Wirral Champion Journal”, available in local bookshops.

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Starfish on Hilbre

A member noticed this summer that there were starfishes in pools at Red Rocks. Our family evening walk in September recorded dead starfishes on the shore at Hilbre, and lower numbers than usual.

Plan for Membership and Newsletters in 2006

The Membership renewals are due on or before the AGM in May. If you need to renew, or to check if you have done so, please e mail us, or contact the Membership Secretary.
Newsletters for members will be issued in January and April next year, containing news, plans for future activities, and (in April) advance notices for the May AGM.

Distribution of Newsletters: Please send us your current e-mail address if you wish to save us money by getting your copy on line. Contact: Membership Secretary or our e-mail.

Copies of the Chairman’s Report at the May 2005 AGM, and the year’s financial accounts are available to members of The Friends of Hilbre if they e-mail us on The next copy date is 15th January 2006.

Members’ articles are welcome. They may be edited to fit the available space. Please send your contributions by e-mail to:
The next copy date is 15th January 2006.

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Public Open Days on Hilbre 2006

Please see the 'Open Days' page on this website.

Eight events are scheduled: all on Sundays, over low tide around mid day. Note the changes of clocks, probably on Sun 26 March and Sun 29 October 2006. Times are adjusted for British Summer Time in the table on the 'Open Days' page, and are the earliest time for leaving from West Kirby Dee Lane, and the latest time to start back from Hilbre.

Note. Monday 28 Aug Bank Holiday has a high tide over mid-day, so you will need to cross before 10.30am and stay on Hilbre until 5pm (High water is 2.30pm). The Lookout may not be open.

If you think you can help on Open Days or MIU Events please email:

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AGM 2006

Wed 24th May 2006 7.30pm West Kirby Concourse.
Members, visitors and public welcome.

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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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