Hilbre Island from Dee Sailing Club – Sunday 11th April 2021 – by Clare Brown
The paddling plans were sent out on Saturday evening by Keith detailing the schedule for Sunday 11th April. A change of plan to the original paddle details were made due to the ever-changing weather, wind and sea state.
For LCC Members who are not familiar with the Dee Estuary and have yet to experience this lovely part of the Northwest coastline. Hilbre Island lies at the mouth of the Dee Estuary, close to West Kirby about 1 mile from Red Rocks Nature Reserve in Hoylake, this is the nearest part of the mainland to the island.
Hilbre Island is an unbridged tidal island and along with Middle Eye and Little Eye form a line of islets that run parallel to the Hoylake coastline. All three islands are formed of red bunter sandstone. The main island and Middle Eye are less than a hundred yards apart. Little Eye and Middle Eye are both unpopulated, but Hilbre Island has a few houses, some of which are privately owned, however there are no longer any residents on the island.
Below half tide it is possible to get to Hilbre on foot. To get there by kayak you must allow 2 hours either side of high water, and even then, you need a spring tide of 8.5m for extra depth over the many sandbanks.
The plan was to arrive at Dee Sailing Club at 9.30am for a 10am start on the water. 2 paddling groups had been formed by enthusiastic members ‘raring’ to get back out on the water following the recent lock-down. Ian Bell leading one group and Keith Steer leading the 2nd. Both groups were on time and organised, ready and excited to return to the freedom of the sea once again and to have a great, local-ish paddle. The morning offered us a cold frosty start, but ‘brilliant’ sunshine brought with it smiles and laughter from all involved. Each group helped its team members to carry the kayaks 50 yards off the slipway. The incoming tide met us nicely and at the ‘click’ of one’s fingers we were all on the water heading out north towards Hilbre Island. We paddled into a slight headwind that blew the cobwebs away. Bright blue skies surrounded us with a pattering of cumulus ‘soft fluffy’ clouds.
The groups spread out in socially distanced pods and paddled rhythmically north.
Hilbre gradually got larger and larger as we progressed towards the west side of the Island. The Experienced paddlers in the group helped us tactically navigate the sandbanks and rocks of the middle and little eye as we headed onwards to Hilbre.
As we passed Middle Eye, we had a pleasant surprise visit from a common seal. It bobbed its head up 4 or 5 times looking to see what we were up to and then disappeared.
The two paddling groups took the opportunity to circumnavigate Hilbre clockwise with near perfect weather conditions on our side. Experiencing a small amount of swell and tide race off the north tip of the Island we changed direction and for a short spell went with the tide and swell.
We were not the only paddlers taking advantage of the relaxation of Lockdown guidelines, paddling opportunity and the fantastic sunshine and warming temperature of the day. A group of sea kayakers had already circled Hilbre, and a number of SUP Boarders were enjoying the day too.
We landed on the beach at the south end of the Island for lunch. We happened to share our lunch location with a Lady photographer who had her prints scattered over the rocks on display. Sandwiches, Soup, fresh fruit, and a well welcomed bag of Jelly babies were enjoyed along with fantastic views of the Wirral Coastline and the north wales coast. A snow-capped Mount Snowdon was visible in the distance.
Following a nice break for lunch with great company and food we got back on the water for our return leg. Once more we were met by an inquisitive seal that eyed us up from a safe distance and then disappeared. Hilbre and the other nearby low-lying islets are nature reserves and important sites for wading birds and wildfowl. We spotted Dunlin, Oystercatchers and Curlew off Middle Eye as we passed by.
We tracked a line along the shallows of the Wirral coastline into the outgoing tide. The northerly wind that should have assisted our paddle back had dropped slightly for our return journey. The groups paddled strongly with talk of the LCC Hilbre Island Sea Kayak race.
We landed back on the Dee Sailing Club slipway with time to spare, making for a short portage off the beach, as the tide was steadily retreating. Once again it was a fantastic team/group effort to carry the kayaks to the loading area.
A fantastic, well planned, paddle with great people on a wonderful part of the Northwest Coast.