THE resident ranger at one of Wirral’s most significant areas of natural beauty is unlikely to be replaced.
Wirral Council became custodian of Hilbre Island, off the coast of west Wirral, when the authority was formed in 1974.
And for many years a ranger has lived on the island which is cut off by tides for part of the day.
Cabinet member for culture, leisure and tourism Cllr David Elderton said it was difficult to find people willing to live on the island full-time and the council was having to “change the way we monitor and manage the area”.
He added: “We’re finding it very difficult finding someone who will live somewhere there is no electricity or running water and is cut off from the mainland half the time – unless they have some sort of hermit mentality.”
It is a popular site for tourists in winter and spring – around 200 species of wading birds visit the island and it is host to a large colony of seals. As a result the islands, which are hugely important to the ornithological community, are part of the Dee Estuary Grade 1 Site of Special Scientific Interest.
They are also a wetland of international importance, a Special Protection Area, a Special Area of Conservation and a Regionally Important Geological and Geomorphological Site.
Hilbre is believed to have been named after St Hildeburgh and is the largest of a group of three islands which takes in Little Eye and Middle Eye. There have been settlements there possibly since the stone age. But the islands became more significant after monks settled there.
At one point it also had a pub, or inn, and Hilbre became more important in Tudor times with a regular flow of military traffic to Ireland.
Nowadays there are a handful of privately-owned bungalows, and until recently the island’s ranger lived in the former telegraph keeper’s house.
However Wirral Council’s ranger service will no longer include a ranger based permanently on the island and the former Hilbre ranger, Dave Cavanagh, who has long been associated with the island, has left the service.
Cllr Elderton said: “As many of the regular visitors to Hilbre will know, there has not been a ranger permanently based on the islands for the last year.
“During this time cover has been provided by the council’s Ranger Service working closely with the Friends of Hilbre.
“We will be appointing a new contractor to maintain and protect Hilbre as part of our wider plan to improve the way in which all parks, open spaces and countryside areas are looked after.
“In the meantimea new Coastal Ranger Team, based at Thurstaston Visitor Centre, has been set up to look after Hilbre Islands, North Wirral Coastal Park, Wirral Country Park and Wirral’s beaches and foreshore.”