The best things to see and do in Hayling Island
PUBLISHED: 12:34 17 June 2014 | UPDATED: 11:45 02 May 2018
As the mercury rises holidaymakers and day-trippers flock to Hayling Island to soak-up its traditional British seaside attractions. Yet even at the height of the season, the place the Celts once called the Sacred Isle still reveals plenty of surprising new discoveries
The sight of dozens of horses splashing in the surf is reminiscent of the South of France, yet locals in the know, head to Hayling’s West Winner sand bank at low water. The horse riding circuit has hitching rails at Beachlands and is a spectacular place to exercise, especially in the early morning and at sunset. From Good Friday until the end of September beach riding is limited to before 10am and after 7pm, so check tide timetables first. The Hayling Billy coastal path on the island’s west side is also a designated bridleway.
Hayling’s characteristically mild maritime climate certainly benefits the gardener and a riot of colour is guaranteed at the local Horticultural Society’s seasonal shows. The opening event is on 28 June at the island’s Community Centre and includes entries in photography, handicrafts and baking. Afternoon tea is also on the menu at several of this year’s NGS Open Gardens, including The Homestead in Northney Road, on 3 August.
The 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings holds a special significance on Hayling Island. It was here that the famous Mulberry floating harbours were constructed and from where top secret reconnaissance missions into enemy held territory were planned. And as the site of the country’s biggest amphibious landing craft training and repair base, the stretch of beach between Eastoke and Norfolk Crescent provided the perfect Normandy rehearsal ground. The four-mile WW2 Heritage Trail is a sobering reminder of the sacrifice made and takes in the island’s most significant military sites including, the Sinah Common gunner point and the Combined Operations Pilotage Parties (COPP) Memorial.
Who doesn’t enjoy kicking back and taking it easy sometimes? While the seafront picnic benches and BBQ grill might fill-up quickly, pack a rug and you shouldn’t need to go far to find a quieter spot. A visit to Stoke Fruit Farm in the island’s centre allows you to assemble a bagful of goodies; its farm shop is bursting with local produce including Hayling tomatoes and honey. Or, if you fancy pushing the boat out, The Langstone Hotel’s overnight stay for two and champagne picnic cruise package, takes in the sights of Chichester Harbour aboard your own exclusive catamaran.
Whatever the weather, with mouth-watering flavours like Turkish Delight, Cointreau and Orange and Raspberry Pavlova to choose from, Pepperelli’s in Eastoke Corner must surely rank as one of the south’s most indulgent ice cream parlours. While heading up the coast, Northney Farm Ice Cream is establishing a name for itself both on the island and beyond. Using milk and cream from their own dairy herd, Mary and Stan Pike will be holding an Open Day on 8 June, so that’s another excuse to visit the onsite teashop for a cornet and more wonderful tastes of the countryside.
Sands of Time
Since its arrival over 100 years ago, the British beach hut has become a quintessential sight and Hayling has a multitude of these brightly coloured shelters along its European Blue Flag rated shores. Not surprisingly, stunning views across the Solent to the Isle of Wight means demand remains high with some exchanging hands for over £10,000. But, if you’re quick off the mark, the visitor information centre at Central Beachlands also has huts available to rent by the week.
The Sacred Isle
Although no visible signs remain of Hayling’s early occupation, a mythology surrounds island life. An iron-age shrine in the north was later developed into a Roman temple during the first century BC, which archaeologists excavated during Victorian times and again during the late 1970s. And the 10th century name for Hayling Island was Heglingaigai, which translates to the Island of the Holy Grail – some say that it’s still hidden here somewhere.
Being surrounded by water, Hayling is a sailing hotspot with four clubs, where temporary memberships, RYA courses and yacht charters are available. For something a little bit different, the Heart of Hayling has seats available to try the growing sport of Cornish gig rowing. And come late summer, the island is the ‘place to be’ for fans of kayaking, windsurfing, kitesurfing and stand-up paddleboard, with the Inn on the Beach at the heart of the National Watersports Festival. Beginners’ taster sessions, coaching clinics, plus a chance to rub shoulders with world champions means it’s a real people’s festival. And when asked about this year’s event, which runs from 5 to 9 September, organiser Allan Cross is quoted as saying: “I will do everything I possibly can to make it bigger and better.”
Anyone for Tennis?
Each summer, watching Wimbledon fortnight has many of us dusting down our racquets, but what about giving real tennis a go?
“Seacourt is renowned in the tennis world for bringing on top juniors in the game,” says Dan Jones, sports manager at the Hayling club which opened in 1911. Now one of the UK’s few remaining active courts it hosts national championship events, but also welcomes the beginner. Combining elements of lawn tennis and squash, the handicapping system enables players of all ages, standards or fitness levels, to compete on virtually equal terms. And, apparently, once you try it, be prepared to become hooked! To see for yourself, or to book a lesson, visit www.seacourt.com.
On Your Bike
Avoid car parking charges and use pedal power to tour the island at a more leisurely pace. Cyclists arriving at Havant Station need only cross the main road leading to Hayling once before choosing between three alternative routes. For crowd dodgers, the ‘green rural ride’ through the less travelled lanes in the island’s north-east is a favourite. Passing through Northney village with its picture postcard cottages and historic church, follow the boundary of Tournerbury Golf Course to spot Chichester Harbour, visible across open countryside. This July, the Paris to Hayling Charity Cycle Ride returns. While it may not be Le Tour, the 360-mile round trip is guaranteed to get the heart racing.
The flat terrain and diversity of natural habitats has walkers keen to put their best foot forward. Routes criss-cross each other or, the 20-mile round island walk combines tranquil coastal marshland with bracing shingle banks as you stride past the Funland Amusement Park and the single-gauge seaside railway on Hayling Bay. Even Sandy Point Nature Reserve at the southernmost tip is accessible by joining one of the guided walks led by Hampshire’s countryside rangers. The next visit to this Site of Special Scientific Interest is on 6 June, and another on 15 June uncovers the wildflowers growing amongst the dunes; both are bookable at www.conservancy.co.uk.
Another waymarked walk worth exploring is Hampshire’s Shipwrights Way. Artist Richard Perry has recently created eye-catching stone sculptures along the entire route that reflect the local area in which they stand, and three of these reside close to the Langstone Harbour shoreline. Look out for ‘Oyster’ overlooking the restored beds, now a noisy site for migrant seabirds between May and August; ‘Little Tern’ along the Billy Trail, which captures the flight of these now frequent visitors; and ‘Brent Goose’ close to its winter home between Ferry Road and The Kench.