Volunteer's Work

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Friends of Hilbre volunteers working on the Telegraph Station (right), © Val Burnett.


© Val Burnett
 

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The Friends of Hilbre was founded in 2001 and is run by an executive committee elected by members at the AGM in May each year. The Friends of Hilbre volunteers work with the guidance of the Hilbre Ranger or the appropriate officer of the Local Authority. Members can choose to volunteer their services from a variety of tasks. Although active participation in projects is welcomed, it is recognised that some members are unable to commit to voluntary work but are appreciated for the loyalty and support they continue to give The Friends of Hilbre and the Hilbre Islands’ Local Nature Reserve {LNR}.

Members from The Friends of Hilbre who participate in voluntary work must be over 18 years of age to comply with the requirements of our insurance. Most of our work is ongoing and we draw on our database of volunteers for the appropriate work in-hand.

The Friends of Hilbre constantly reiterate the need to conserve and treat our wildlife haven with care and respect when visiting the islands.


Initiatives undertaken by members of The Friends of Hilbre

Website: Richard Smith has been instrumental, with members of our committee, in creating the Friends of Hilbre Web Site and acts as our host at www.deeestuary.co.uk.
Thank you Richard for all your hard work and patience.


The Hilbre Telegraph Station Lookout was renovated and officially opened in 2003 as the Interpretative Centre for the islands. Members of the Friends of Hilbre, Hilbre Bird Observatory and the Hilbre Ranger produced the Centres’ exhibition on the islands’ wildlife, history and landscape. The Interpretative Centre can only be opened when a Ranger or a trained member of the Friends of Hilbre is in attendance.

Practical tasks are ongoing and examples include:

• Internal and external painting and repairs – to help preserve the islands historic buildings.
• Repairing, re-pointing and where appropriate re-painting garden walls
• Cleaning of buildings and preparing for renovation work.
• Re-pointing and repairing of existing sea walls – to help stop the erosion of the island.
• Maintenance of low cliff-top walls – to help to prevent loss of soil and vegetation.
• Control of invasive plant species, including bracken pulling – to reduce competition with
some of the islands’ natural plants.
• Litter removal.

Seal Watching - Trained volunteers give visitors information and the opportunity to view the seals in the Dee Estuary through a telescope. A committee member, with the guidance of the Hilbre Ranger, has produced a leaflet on the Atlantic Grey Seal. Seal watching takes place when a volunteer or a Ranger is available.

The Mobile Information Unit, courtesy of the Wirral Ranger Service, is situated once a month at Dee Lane slipway, West Kirby, where members of the Friends of Hilbre staff it. We intend to increase public awareness, knowledge and respect for the various features of the LNR.

Right - Val and Freya seal watching.
© Colin Jones.

Volunteers attend local events and exhibit material on display boards generously sponsored by the Hoylake and West Kirby Round Table. Information is available and funds are raised from sales items - which helps to pay for materials for tasks and services on Hilbre.

Sales items produced by one member include: key rings, fridge magnets, and bookmarks {from original botanical paintings by a member from Shrewsbury}. Photographic prints and cards of Hilbre, by a member who is a wildlife/landscape photographer, are for sale. Postcards, booklets, leaflets, and Information Sheet Packs are also available. At the present time these items can only be purchased at the Mobile Information Unit, event days, meetings, and social events.

Learning resources are available to increase understanding, enjoyment and respect for the wildlife, geology and historic buildings on the islands.

We assisted with the publication of, Explore the History of Hilbre Island printed for the Ranger Service by the Ecosert project for sustainable tourism. This is now awaiting a re-print due to its popularity. Members have contributed material on Hilbre that is included in our Information Sheet Pack. The quarterly Newsletter contains up-to-date news and articles written by members.


A ‘Hilbre Islands’ Archive is being created. We welcome contributions of information, literature, photographs, maps and memories relating to Hilbre from members of the public.

Friends of Hilbre Guest Speakers have given talks about the Hilbre Islands and the different aspects of  our group’s work to various sections of the community. Exhibitions have also been mounted in local libraries and community halls.

The Wirral Parks and Open Spaces Section of the Local Authority hold forums periodically and ‘Friends’ groups on Wirral are invited to attend. The meetings provide opportunities to interact with officials and to learn from other groups’ experiences.

The Friends of Hilbre has made links with other parties or groups who have an interest with Hilbre: Hilbre Bird Observatory (“HIBO”), Hilbre tenants, Hilbre Canoe Club, Raleigh, Dee Estuary Conservation Group, Dee Estuary Voluntary Wardens, Wirral Conservation Trust Volunteers, Cheshire Wildlife Trust, English Nature, Liverpool Museum, Liverpool and Manchester Universities, and Wirral Borough Council. We will aim to maintain these links and to develop new ones where possible.


Funds are raised from membership subscriptions, donations from the public, grants, schools, local organisations, social evenings, coffee mornings, car boot sales, sales goods, talks, guided walks, and slideshows. All profits from these events helps to swell the funds for the benefit of the Island.
When renovating the Telegraph Station Lookout, advice was sought from Robinson & Neil Ltd on the suitability of paints etc. to withstand the Estuary conditions, and their donation of some materials was most welcome.

VOLUNTEERS ARE NEEDED FOR:
{must be a member over the age of 18}

• Practical tasks on Hilbre {training given where necessary}.
• Skilled craftsmen for building work, carpentry, plastering, plumbing.
• Fundraising – large or small projects.
• Staffing the Mobile Information Unit and stalls at events.
• Staffing the Hilbre Islands’ Telegraph Station Lookout Interpretative Centre.
• Seal Watching with the public {training given}.
• Arranging social evenings.
• Photocopying.
• IT skills.

IF YOU CAN SPARE THE TIME WHY NOT JOIN US!


THE FUTURE:
POSSIBLE PROJECTS FOR THE FRIENDS OF HILBRE INVOLVEMENT

We aim to continue to encourage public involvement in the care and management of Hilbre Islands Local Nature Reserve. The Friends of Hilbre attained charitable status this year {2004} and it is anticipated that grant applications will be made in the future to appropriate sources of funding to help fund specific projects for the benefit of the Hilbre Islands LNR and the community. These projects would depend on the strategies adopted by the Metropolitan Borough of Wirral.

In recent years storms and wave action have severely damaged the lifeboat station slipway and it is in need of major repair. The issue of erosion of the cliffs at the North and West of Hilbre is a serious one and The Friends of Hilbre await the Metropolitan Borough of Wirral’s preferred option regarding erosion control. We have already established a number of valuable contacts within the Engineers and Parks and Open Spaces Departments, and will continue to work with the Council to identify the best options for Hilbre. It is hoped that by identifying potential sources of funding not available to Wirral Borough Council, Friends of Hilbre can encourage the production of firm plans to undertake the necessary works.


©
Valerie Burnett

The islands have potential for the provision of small scale educational and interpretative facilities for organised groups and the general public. The Victorian Buoy Master’s complex of buildings are in need of restoration and they could be used as an educational facility for courses. Accommodation could be provided for a limited number of students and field workers engaged in research and/or guests staying on a wildlife study course, and task work volunteers. A computer monitor, linked to the Hilbre Web Cam, could one day be installed in the Interpretative Centre {or other facility} as an educational aid for students and visitors to the islands.

In recent years two composting toilets have been built on Hilbre which can be used by volunteers and the general public - this is a vast improvement to the buckets with lids on which were formerly used.

The Friends of Hilbre, in cooperation with other groups on Hilbre, the Hilbre Ranger and a local photographer, hope to produce an interpretative booklet on the Hilbre Islands in the future. This could include sections on History, Archaeology, Natural History, Geography and Geology