Hayling Bay to Havant
It’s the 19th July 18, myself, Tony Driscoll, David Beech, David Strachan & Loki the dog are heading to Hayling Bay to walk the foreshore back to Havant. This is a relatively small walk today being only around 9 miles, however it’s extremely hot and that will be enough for us. Ironically the last time I visited Hayling Island in May it was also very hot, but today it’s even hotter. With large amounts of fluids and sun cream, we eventually arrive at the bus stop beside the Hayling Seaside Railway shed. It’s a small stroll from there to the seawall for the start and after meeting up with Dave Stratton, we are ready to begin. Today’s walk will take us toward Sinah Common and the East Winner Sands, through the entrance of Langstone harbour past Ferry Point, before heading along the west side of South Hayling and walking the old Hayling Billy railway foot bed back to Havant. With the tide falling, the East Winner Sandbank has just started to become visible. At low water this large sandbank stretches out into the bay for over a mile and local dog walkers / holiday makers make full use of it for a walk. The sandbank also provides shelter from the larger waves for the beaches within Hayling Bay, allowing the waters to warm up nicely as the tide rises, making the waters here very pleasant for bathing.
In 2012 this monument was opened to remember the secret work of the COPP (Combined Operations Pilotage Parties). This group of less than 200 men ultimately deserve so much credit for saving the lives of thousands of servicemen through their extraordinary bravery. Their job was to cross secretly to the beaches of Normandy to monitor and survey the beaches prior to D-Day, to ensure the success of the landings. Little is known about the work of these men and their role in helping to end the war.
Setting off from Hayling beach on December 31st 1943, because as Churchill rightly pointed out, the Germans would be too busy celebrating New Year to notice anyone on the beaches, the men weighed down with equipment, would go ashore, take samples, measurements and get away without being spotted. This was only one of countless nerve wracking expeditions carried out by the COPP.
West Beachlands (also called West Beach), is a shallow protected bay at the South West corner of Hayling Island. This location is designated a Windsurfing area and an ideal area for beginners due to its proximity to East Winner Sands, which shelters the beach frontage. Hayling Island was where Windsurfing was invented by Peter Chilvers who attached a freely rotating mast and sail to a makeshift board in 1958, he set in motion a chain of events that still resonates today. In 1982 the British courts recognised Peter Chilvers, as a young boy on Hayling Island had assembled the first board combined with a sail. It incorporated all the elements of the modern windsurfer. The courts found that later innovations were “merely an obvious extension” and upheld the defendant’s claim based on film footage. This court case set a significant precedent for patent law in the United Kingdom, in terms of Inventive step and non-obviousness. The case, Chilvers, Hayling, and a replica of Chilvers’ original board were featured on an episode of the BBC’s The One Show in 2009.
In the next two pictures you can see nearing the Langstone Harbour entrance on West Beach the East Winner Sands stretching away from the beach. Walking on the sand here is very good all the way to Ferry Point.
Sinah Point, known locally as Ferry Point, has extremely treacherous currents and has claimed many lives over the years. The passenger ferry across the entrance to Langstone Harbour connects the Sinah Common to Eastney, Portsmouth. It’s a lovely place to rest from the heat and enjoy a drink at the Ferryboat Inn (originally “The Duke of York”). After a short break we continue along the ferry road and past this old converted landing craft now a houseboat at the Kench in the Langstone Channel.
Walking the coast in front of the Sinah Warren Hotel and holiday village, part of the Warner Leisure Group, we find this creative slingshot or human disposal system.
The World War II heavy anti-aircraft gun site at Sinah Common. These ruins of a World War 2 gun site, one of a coastal series protecting Portsmouth, lie next to Sinah Lake. The Sinah Common Gun Site, now a Scheduled Ancient Monument and part of the Sinah Common SSSI, had four gun emplacements, ammunition stores & command post. The remaining gun emplacements, which are in good condition, have been converted into a seating area with a memorial to the six gunners that died defending the Portsmouth area from a heavy air raid that took place in April 1941. The men belonged to the 219th battery (57th Heavy Anti Aircraft regiment) that manned the 4.5 inch Naval guns based there. The names of the gunners can be seen on a commemorative plaque now mounted on a wall inside one of the remaining emplacement.
After winding our way through overgrown, littered footpaths in West Town, Hayling (Thank you Hampshire County Council!), we eventually arrive at the start of the “Hayling Billy” footpath at Hayling town. The path follows the old Hayling Island Branch railway line “The Hayling Billy”, which the path takes its name from. This coastal trackway is used by walkers, cyclists and horse riders, however within minutes we are being terrorised by cyclists who think they have more right of way than anyone and simply can not use a bell, because it’s below them. If you are a responsible cyclist please remember we do not hear you coming, especially when it’s windy, noisy or looking ahead when you’re coming from behind. I have no problem moving to one side and a bell is the best way to alert us of your pending arrival. I don’t mean to moan about cyclists, but I go out of my way to thank anyone using a bell and it might just stop someone getting seriously hurt.
Dave Strachan and Loki enjoying the Hayling Billy.
Nearing the end of the Hayling Billy, the footpath diverts away from the trackway to cross Langstone road bridge, however you can continue a little further to the end of the line, where it crossed the Sweare Deep channel over the railway bridge. Here a significant amount of the bridge remains, including the base of the swinging section and what seems to be the bridge piers. These bridge piers seen in my title picture are, in fact, the lower parts of the wooden bridge structure which were enclosed in rectangular columns of concrete by the Southern Railway in the late 1920s, early 1930s. The columns stand on the bridge foundations, which were specially strengthened to deal with the tidal scour at this location.
After another noisy crossing of the Langstone road bridge, we arrive at the north side and not before time. The heat has been unbearable and I would like to thank David Beech, Tony Driscoll, David Strachan and Loki for joining me today. 9.38 miles