Clearing Ivy

The Friday Group volunteers meet every Friday morning to carry out maintenance tasks on Bidston Hill. Lately, they’ve been clearing ivy from oak trees and the like, to keep the trees healthy.

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2023 Memberships Due

Members of the Friends of Bidston Hill are reminded that all memberships become due for renewal in January of each year. The annual membership fee remains at only £5 per year, and covers all family members living at the same address. New members are always welcome.

You can download a membership form here.

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Notice of Annual General Meeting 2021

It has been sometime since we have communicated through the website regarding matters relating to Bidston Hill. I think all will appreciate this is due to the pandemic which prevented any plans for events being initiated.

We are hopeful the 19th July will bring further unlocking of restrictions, giving way for our committee to meet and continue where we left off before the Covid-19 Outbreak.

With this in mind, assuming restrictions are lifted on this date, we plan to hold our Annual General Meeting, in order to put forward for appointment, nominees for those interested in serving on the committee for the forthcoming year.

All are welcome to attend and will have the opportunity to put forward suggestions about anything they would like to be considered for inclusion for events and planning for the year ahead. The meeting will take place on Thursday, 22nd July, at 6.00pm at Bidston Observatory. This iconic building was instrumental in predicting tide times in preparation for the WW2 D-Day landings and we are proud it is part of the heritage of Bidston Hill.

If coming by car, drive up Wilding Way (off Boundary Road) and proceed to the top where parking is available.

Hope to see you at the meeting.

Roy Caligari

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Dear Friends,

It will come as no surprise that due to the virus and recent government restrictions, all of our planned events/activities on Bidston Hill have been cancelled.

This is notwithstanding my recent ‘Newsletter’ post which was written before the escalation of the crisis. Once the situation becomes clearer, we will post further information.

We hope you have a lovely summer and hope it is not too long before circumstances return to normal, when we can all continue to enjoy some of the events our committee work so hard to arrange each year on Bidston Hill.

Roy Caligari


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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: 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: 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

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:

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 for more information, or visit

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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Friday Group Report: March 2020

17th January to 6th March 2020

It has been very wet this year but the Friday Group lost only two days owing to rain. Most of the time the Group has been working on North Heath, near the Sun Goddess. Many Birch trees have been cut down to prevent seeding this year, similarly many Birch saplings have been cut down to ground level. Material cut down is trimmed to a suitable length and then piled up; log piles like these make good wildlife habitats.

One morning was spent on South Heath, near to Rock Path. There is a lot of Heather growing here so time was spent trimming back Gorse to give more space and light for the Erica. Some Birch and Rhododendron were also cut down.

A lowland heath seminar was held at Dale Farm, Heswall on 29th February. This was attended by the Ranger, Neil Mutch and John Lee accompanied him. Representatives from other Wirral heathlands maintainers (e.g.Heswall Dales, Cleaver Heath, Caldy Hill, Grange Hill) also went to the meeting, the aim of which was to share and develop best practice in lowland heath management. This was the first meeting of its type and became the inaugural forum of the Wirral Heathland Partnership. The exchange of ideas was most useful and it is likely other meetings will be held in the future.

During this period of eight work days, forty-five persons attended and approximately ninety hours were spent on heath maintenance.

John Lee, Volunteer Warden

10th March 2020.

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Volunteer Warden’s Report: January 2020

4th October 2019 to 10th January 2020

Season’s greetings from all members of the Friday Group and best wishes for a prosperous New Year.

Last October, Bidston Hill received a visit from the Mayor and Mayoress of Wirral. The occasion was the raising of the Green Flag by His Worship: the flag is awarded to public places which are well maintained for visitors and, once again, the Hill has been a recipient.

The following week many bulbs were planted in the wooded triangle of land opposite the entrance to Tam O’Shanter farm — look out for a colourful display this Spring.
On parts of South Heath, Heather is now re-generating after the disastrous fires of 2018 so a number of Birch saplings growing there have been cut down to prevent the spread of tree seeds; if left, their germination could result in woodland growth within the Heather area.

A benefactor’s donation was used to buy a wildlife recording camera and this has now been installed in a tree on Bidston Hill, its location, however, is not being publicised.

The Contractors Track on North Heath off Wilding Way has been extensively cleared and fire damaged Birch stems placed on the surface to give it some stability. Paths are also being widened on this heath to encourage walkers and create fire breaks.

During the fifteen work days, 74 volunteers spent approximately 129 hours maintaining Bidston Hill.

John Lee

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Volunteer Warden’s Report: September 2019

August 2nd to 27th September 2019

New to most members of the Friday Group was the overgrown driveway to a private house off Boundary Road (by Brow Road) known as “The Clubhouse.” Fire Service vehicles moving up the drive had been damaged by overhanging branches and it was at their request that the Group trimmed back all the bushes and trees.

Bidston Windmill was open on two occasions and over 100 visitors attended each time. The building is closed now until April 2020 and it is hoped that bats will return there for hibernation.

A bat detector has been purchased by the friends and in mid-August several Committee members met one evening to explore uses of the machine. Although heavy rain curtailed time spent walking, Pipistrelle and Noctule bats were detected.

Bridleways by the car park and alongside Tam o’ Shanter Farm have been trimmed back.

On South Heath to the left of Ridge Path (facing Windmill) there has been much growth of Birch, Gorse and Rhododendron so an effort is now being made to cut this down. This area is naturally boggy and wildlife for the habitat will be encouraged. Unfortunately, the Willow that also grows there is quite abundant and, because the tree will suck up so much moisture, some of this plant will have to also be removed.

Nature quickly grows back and there is lots of new growth on Bidston Hill after the enormous fires of the summer of 2018. Rapid growth may be expected of Gorse and Birch but this year there is more Bracken than usual and Broom plants are now to be seen on South Heath. Heather too is growing back and has been in flower. Good news also about Lizards; one was recently seen in Flaybrick Cemetery, so a colony did survive the fires.

John Lee

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Due to unforeseen circumstances, we are sorry to advise that the Windmill will not be open on Saturday morning, 7th September between 10am and 12 noon as planned. However, it will be open the following Saturday morning, 14th September, from 10 till 12 as part of the Wirral Heritage Open Days event.

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Volunteer Warden’s Report: July 2019

May 3rd to July 19th 2019

The Windmill has been open to the public three times during this period. This is any ever-popular event with good attendances each time.

Tumbledown Hill was cleared in preparation for a visit by John Kuzmjak’s relatives. They were pleased to see the site and hear of the fall that John had had there some years ago.

A fire risk was identified behind the fence of Hillside Farm so the trees and bushes there have been cut back. At lot of litter was also found here and much of that was removed but some heavy items could not be carried in the litter bags.

Many of the paths from Upton Road are overgrown, although some have now been cleared. This is an on-going project.

Once again, the ventilation shaft to the underground bunker/air raid shelter had been opened up. The Friday Group assisted Council Staff in attempting to block the entrance but the following week all the “brash” had been removed and burnt. There is a plan for contractors to close off the entrance and a pathway has been cleared for a cross-country type vehicle to access the site. Stop press: the ventilation shaft has now been securely sealed in the interests of public safety. There is no longer any access to the air raid shelters on Bidston Hill.

There is a lot of regeneration of plants on the North and South Heaths after last year’s severe fires but, sadly, Heather is very slow to re-appear.

Plants are thriving in the Wild Plant areas and the plots continue to be maintained with additional plants being inserted.

During this 14 work day period, 56 personnel worked approximately 119 hours.

John Lee.

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