Bidston Hill Newsletter – March 2020

In this issue


Chairman’s Report

I am pleased to advise that Bidston Hill continues to maintain the Green Flag status, helped by our hard-working volunteers.

Bidston Hill

Green Flag Award logo

The mark of a quality park or green space.
Given in recognition of achieving the national
standard for parks and green spaces.

The aim of the Friends of Bidston Hill is to support the development of the Hill for the local and wider community, whilst striving to maintain the Hill’s unique character. The ‘Friends’ work in partnership with Wirral Council Parks and Countryside Service, creating new ideas and projects for the benefit of the Hill and its users. Much credit for the continued green flag status should go to our Friday Group that works all year through, irrespective of what the weather is throwing at them! It is through such dedication and love for the Hill that makes it possible for us all to enjoy the benefits of this beautiful conservation area throughout the seasons.

If you are interested in joining our volunteers please let me know and I will let you have further information or, call John on 07887 665120. Or, just turn up at the Tam O’Shanter Farm café area for 10:00am any Friday morning to help with tasks on the Hill. All are welcome, just remember to wear appropriate clothing according to the weather and suitable footwear.

Our Windmill is open to the public from 10 till 12 on the first Saturday of each month, the next opening being 4th April. The last opening will be 5th September however, due to National Mills Weekend in May, it will also be open on Saturday, 9th May, from 10 till 12. And again at the same time, Saturday, 12th September in line with the Heritage Open Days event.

Bat Walk

We are having a bat walk on Tuesday, 24th March at 7pm. There are many species of bats in the UK, the most common of which is the Pipistrelle. Come along to see how many you can identify using our bat detectors. Bring your own if you have one as we have a limited number. Please wear suitable clothing and footwear and bring a torch as it will be dark soon after the walk starts. Booking is essential. Event Postcode: CH43 7PD Contact: 0151 653 0762 Email: neilmutch@wirral.gov.uk Meet at: Bidston Hill Car Park.

A bat detector is a device used to detect the presence of bats by converting their echolocation ultrasound signals, as they are emitted by the bats, to audible frequencies usually about 120 Hz to 15 kHz. There are other types of detectors which record bat calls so that they can be analysed afterward, but these are more commonly referred to by their particular function.

Bats emit calls from about 12 kHz to 160 kHz, but the upper frequencies in this range are rapidly absorbed in air. Many bat detectors are limited to around 15 kHz to 125 kHz at best. Bat detectors are available commercially and also can be self-built.

Heritage Trail Walk

As part of the Wirral Walking Festival, Bidston Hill Heritage Walk Friday 15th May, 10am – 12noon is free of charge, length: 4 kilometres. Booking essential.

A Ranger-led circular walk taking in the history and heritage of the hill. Features include the windmill, observatory and rock carvings. Appropriate footwear is required as the ground is rocky and steep in sections. Please note that the route is not suitable for wheelchair users. Toilets and refreshments will be available at Tam O’Shanter Farm. Event Postcode: CH43 7PD Contact: 0151 653 0762 Email: neilmutch@wirral.gov.uk Meet at: Bidston Hill Car Park. Heritage Trail booklets are available at the Tam O’Shanter Farm café.

Guided Walks of Bidston Hill carry on throughout the year every Saturday morning, meet at Tam O’Shanter Farm café area at 11.00 am. For further information have a look on our Events Calendar www.bidstonhill.org.uk/events.

Our AGM will take place on Tuesday, 26th May 7:00pm at Bidston Observatory. We will review the past year and the year ahead before nominations and appointment of the new Committee. All are welcome and we will have a guest speaker to provide some interesting entertainment.

Memberships of the Friends of Bidston Hill became due for renewal on 1st January 2020. The annual fee of £5 covers a whole family for a year. If you haven’t renewed your membership, or want to join, you can collect one from the Ranger’s office at Tam O’Shanter Farm. Payment can be made by cheque, payable to Friends of Bidston Hill and sent to Tam O’Shanter Farm, or transfer, our bank details are: A/C No: 71507958. Sort Code: 40-10-26. It is important you use your name as a reference so that we can ensure we allocate your payment correctly. Alternatively, you can download the membership form from our website:

I do hope you can spare some time to join us and would ask that you visit our events page from time to time to see what we are up to!

Roy Caligari – Chair


General Information

Regular visitors to the hill will have noticed the number of dead trees which have recently been cut down and can be viewed as unsightly. However, there are reasons for this.

For health & Safety reasons, Wirral Council has a duty to ensure all visitors are protected from falling branches of unstable trees that have been weakened over time or, potentially dangerous due to age. We were asked why trees had to be cut so close to the ground instead of branch level and were advised that weak or decaying trees are too dangerous for tree fellers to climb. Consequently, what you are seeing, is simply the enforcement of the tree policy in parks and open spaces. From a positive perspective, dead timber provides a wonderful habitat for insects.

Shortly before Christmas the Windmill was broken into and those that have visited the mill may be aware that the door has a solid steel plate secured by two substantial mortice locks. Some force must have been applied to gain entry although nothing was taken and there is no internal damage. Contractors secured the door welding it shut and are due to repair and fit new locks before the building is open to the public in early April.


From Vyner Road to Bidston Ridge, thro’ the pines across the bridge
Begin to climb Mindy Hill, weathered path to rustic Mill
Lifeless now has lost its yearn, static sails no longer turn
So deserted so forlorn, no Miller now to grind the corn

Walls and floors in disarray, door and windows in decay
Silent now no turning shaft, no one left to teach the craft
Static cogwheels way up high, clear view to open sky
No movement now no turning wheels, no scenic view to open fields

Timbers ageing growing weak, a slightest breeze will make them creak
Working life in bygone days, hard working people old fashioned ways
English folk and so well bred on Bidston Hill in Birkenhead

A lovely poem, author not known, it was given to one of our committee members by the late Tony Roberts of Claughton and it is believed it could be one of his works.


The above picture is of a Station Pointer which was found on Bidston Hill earlier in the year by Jon Spink whilst working on the hill.

A Station Pointer is used for plotting a ship’s position from horizontal sextant angles taken between two or more objects or geographical features. To use it, the angles measured by the sextant are used to set the positions of the movable arms around the circle on the Station Pointer. This can then be placed on a chart to draw position lines from the features observed and so plot the ship’s position.

The Station Pointer consists of a graduated circle and three arms, one of which is fixed (at 0 degrees on the scale), while the other two can move around the circle and have fixing screws. The circle of this example has a diameter of 6 inches (152 mm) and is made of brass with an aluminium degree scale. The scale runs from 0 to 360 degrees, with 0.5-degree subdivisions, and verniers on the movable arms allow reading to 1 minute. It is contained in a fitted wooden case, which also holds extension pieces for each of the arms. Station Pointers are also used in surveying, as was this example from the Hydrographic Office of the Royal Navy, in which case they have verniers attached to the movable arms to allow more accurate positioning.


The one o’clock gun, fifty years after

Sylvia Asquith and the one o'clock gun, 18 July 2019.

Sylvia Asquith by the latest one o’clock gun, 18 July 2019.

Liverpool’s One O’Clock Gun was fired for the last time on 18th July 1969. At one second before one o’clock, Sylvia Asquith flicked the switch at Bidston Observatory that caused the cannon to fire down at Morpeth Dock. Fifty years later to the minute, Sylvia was present when the Royal Artillary (103 Regiment} fired a field gun, this time from the waterfront near Woodside Ferry Terminal.

The event was attended by more than one hundred people, including the Lord Mayor of Wirral, former staff of Bidston Observatory, and representatives of the National Oceanography Centre (Liverpool), Bidston Observatory Artistic Research Centre and the Wirral History and Heritage Association. Accompanying Sylvia Asquith (pictured above) was Joyce Scoffield (author of “Bidston Observatory: The Place and the People”); Sylvia and Joyce were two of several women who took turns firing the one o’clock gun during the 1960s.

One man in particular deserves credit for making this happen. Russ Mundy, retired marine surveyor, had been lobbying Wirral Council for more than a year. In Russ’s vision, daily re-enactments of the firing of the one o’clock gun would contribute to the visitor economy and the regeneration of the waterfront. (Edinburgh’s one o’clock gun is still fired every day.) That doesn’t seem very likely in these times of austerity, but at least the Council hasn’t said that the 2019 firing will be the last!

Credit is due also to Wirral Council’s Culture Team for running with the idea (it certainly helped that the 50th Anniversary of the last firing fell during Wirral’s year as Liverpool City Region’s Borough of Culture), and of course to the Royal Artillery, 103 Regiment, without whose co-operation there would have been no firing at all.

When the gun was first fired in 1867, this method of passing on time to the port cities of Liverpool and Birkenhead represented the state of the art. But by 1969, it was already an anachronism. Two days after its last firing, Apollo 11 would put a man on the moon.

MDHB Notice announcing the One O’Clock Gun, 1857.

Observatory staff by the One O’clock Gun.


Bidston Lighthouse

Bidston Lighthouse, February 2020. Photo by Ray McBride.

Bidston Lighthouse, February 2020. Photo by Ray McBride.

Open days at Bidston Lighthouse will resume on Saturday 4th April with guided tours at 12noon, 1, 2 & 3pm.

From the beginning of May until the first weekend of September inclusive, Bidston Lighthouse will open to the public on:

  • Sunday afternoons from 12:45pm to 5pm with guided tours at 1, 2, 3 & 4pm
  • and the first Saturday of each month from 11:45am to 4pm with guided tours at 12noon, 1, 2 & 3pm.

Different arrangements will apply during the Heritage Open Days in September. Second hand books, souvenirs and light refreshments are available. Prior booking is not possible on public open days.

Admission charges: Free admission to the ground floor (reception) and oil room (second-hand bookshop). Guided tours of the signals and lamp rooms cost £3.00 (adult) or £1 (child).

Restrictions: Children must be 1.06 metres (42 inches) or taller to go up to the lamp room, and must be accompanied by an adult at all times. All visitors to the signals and lamp rooms must be accompanied by a guide. There is no access to the lamp room balcony on open days, for health and safety reasons.

Private guided tours of Bidston Lighthouse can be arranged all year round (but we advise against coming in winter, as the lighthouse is not heated). A minimum charge of £30 applies. Our “tea and tour” package is popular with history groups and ramblers. Light lunches can be provided on request. Please telephone (0151) 543 7816 to discuss your requirements.

For more information, please visit: www.bidstonlighthouse.org.uk


Bidston Observatory

To coincide with the opening times of Bidston Windmill, Bidston Observatory Artistic Research Centre will be screening a series of films exploring the heritage and history of the building and the work undertaken here.

Screenings are free and will run from 11:00 – 14:00 on the first Saturday of every month from April – September.

(i.e. April 4th, May 2nd, June 6th, July 4th, August 1st & September 5th.)

Please note this is not a tour of the building. We will however be running free tours in September during the Heritage Open Days. Additionally, private tours can be arranged for groups up to 30 with a flat rate of £75 for an hour tour exploring the whole building.

Please email enquiries@bidstonobservatory.org for more information, or visit
www.bidstonobservatory.org


Book review: Secret Liverpool – An Unusual Guide

When retired lecturer Mike Keating agreed to write a new guidebook for Merseyside, he was a little daunted at first. A guidebook that doesn’t mention the Beatles Story, Walker Art Gallery or any of the usual attractions? Could he find 150 secret places in Merseyside worth visiting?

It turns out he could, thanks to places like Bidston Hill, to which are devoted six of the 272 pages of “Secret Liverpool – An Unusual Guide”.

Chapter 34 “Flag Signal Gate” covers Bidston Hill’s flag signals, the Lighthouse, Observatory, the One O’Clock Gun and the Tide Prediction Machines. Chapter 35 “Carving of a Sun Goddess” talks about the rock carvings. The Windmill and the Friends of Bidston Hill get a mention too.

Mike Keating’s book is bursting with interesting facts about Merseyside’s hidden gems. No matter how long you’ve lived in the area, no matter how thorough your explorations of Liverpool and the Wirral, there’s sure to be plenty in this little book that you didn’t know. What’s more, the author has taken unusual pains to get his facts right. He gave us the opportunity to comment on draft chapters and took our feedback into account. If every writer was as careful as Mike Keating, there’d be a lot less misinformation in the world.

“Secret Liverpool – An Unusual Guide” is published by Jonglez Publishing. It would be a worthy addition to your bookshelf.

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