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Monday, 3 June 2013

Walk 96 Hayling Island

 Walk  96  Hayling Island (Hampshire)

(Second leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs to Lands End)

Map: L/R 197
Distance: 10 miles or 15 km
Difficulty: Fairly easy
Terrain: Mainly footpath and pavement
Access: Parking near The Ship Inn, Langstone
Public transport: Rail to Havant and walk to Langstone Bridge. Return journey from Eastoke area of Hayling Island on 30 or 31 bus back to Havant – runs every half and hour or so Mon-Sat.

Start on the Havant side of Hayling Island. Walk past the Ship Inn before crossing Langstone Bridge. This pub, which was originally a mill, is worth making a note of especially if you like real ale and/or seafood. As you begin to cross the bridge look back to the east and an old windmill (a well known local landmark) can be spotted. The original bridge was timber built and replaced the Wadeway in 1824. This foot crossing, used for 3000 years, is still visible at low tide. The current bridge was built in 1956 to replace the fragile timber original. Before this date bus passengers had to get off on the mainland and continue their journey on the other side.  

To the west of the island is Northey with its marina and nature reserve to the south of Northey Manor. However, the eastern coastal part of the island is mostly inaccessible so the walk concentrates on the western and southern sides.

On the other side of Langstone Bridge find the start of the Hayling Billy Coastal Path which follows the route of the old rail line along the west coast of the island. The line started at Havant and was opened in 1867. It was closed in 1963 as part of the cuts imposed by Dr Beeching. Special lightweight engines were used so that the old Langstone Bridge could be safely crossed. The Hayley Billy Terrier Tank Engines now form part of the Isle of Wight steam railway. The path gives some good but not continuous views of the coast. Portsea Island can be clearly seen to the west.

At the end of the old railway line some careful navigation along the roads will lead you to an area called The Kench. This is an inlet where failed attempts were made to construct a marina. During the 1950s several surplus military boats were purchased and converted into house boats. I spotted a few still in use as living accommodation.

Continue walking to the western point of the island and the Ferry Boat Inn. The pub was originally called The Norfolk Lodge as the Duke of Norfolk owned much of the land in South Hayling. The timbers used to build it were from HMS Impregnable (clearly not!) which sunk here in 1798. It changed its name in the 1950s to capitalise on a popular song at the time “Down at the Ferry Boat Inn”.   A passenger ferry runs from here to Portsea although a local told me it remains under threat of closure as it is subsidised by the local authority.    

Follow the path on to the southern coast of the island and past Sinah Common with its golf course. Hayling Golf Club was founded in 1883 by Colonel Sanderson who was a famous producer of sherry and port.  This area is of special scientific interest and the rare Dartford Warbler has been sighted here.

Continue the walk along the sea front past The Inn on the Beach and then to various flats and buildings overlooking the large grass frontages and dunes. Norfolk Crescent and the impressive white building – The Royal - were part of a failed attempt in the early nineteenth century to create a grandiose development to attract wealthy visitors.

The beach is mainly of pebbles although I thought it once had grey sand when I visited here as a child in the 1950s/60s. A local suggested that the beach had been manually filled with gravel and pebbles to prevent erosion. A fun fair and a 2 foot gauge railway operate along the front in the season.

The path continues towards Eastoke Point. A number of bungalows are close to the beach – some with interesting gardens made of beach debris. From this point there are good views back to Chichester Harbour.  
Snaps show: The Ferry Boat Inn; The Kench; The Royal and Norfolk Crescent; one of the interesting beach gardens.

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