Monday, 20 April 2009

Hayling Billy Langstone Bridge - Hayling Island

Former Langstone Bridge

A couple of years ago while completing the Solent Way, I came across the short cycle path known as the Hayling Billy. I remembered that this used to be a short branch line that ran from Havant to the seaside island town of Hayling Island a mere four miles or so away. Having recently explored a couple of other former railways on my bike I thought I’d give this one a go to, especially as it gave me the opportunity to have a nose around a town I would not otherwise go to.

Start of the Track
The parking area that I used last time I came this way on the north side of the Langstone Bridge was absoloutely chock full of cars so I had to find somewhere else. Luckily just to the south of the bridge was a smaller and obviously less well known car park that fitted the bill perfectly. The road bridge now acts as the only way on or off the island, which would worry me greatly if I lived there. Up until the early 1960s the charming little Hayling Billy branch provided a second crossing across the Langstone Channel, the short stretch of water that separates Hayling Island from the mainland. Unusually this line was actually turning in a profit when the death knell came in 1963. As with many of these rural lines it was not the day to day position which was the problem, it was the crumbling infrastructure and specifically the Langstone Bridge. Never very strong, it was estimated that it would cost £400,000 to put right at the time and this proved to be too big an investment.
Sea Views

So the fate of the Hayling line was to ultimately join so many others as a cycle route, although of course without the troublesome bridge. The access route from the car park took me over to a point just south of the bridge, but it seemed appropriate to take a closer look before heading south to North Hayling and Hayling Island stations. The outline of the bridge can clearly be seen, with the stumps of where the bridge supports once were still sticking out of the water. Next to it was a rather forlorn looking signal, amazingly with arm still attached and not pilfered by a collector.
Former Station Site
I then headed southwards along a very attractive cycle path that largely skirted along the shoreline, affording me pleasant views of Langstone Harbour and the Spinnaker Tower away in the distance at Portsmouth. Although a very nice ride, the rest of the route was completely devoid of any railway interest. In fact, level route aside, you’d be hard pressed to know that this was ever a railway, so little is there left. North Hayling station, which was only ever a wooden platform anyway is now completely swept away, and the site acts as a car park for other would-be cyclists, walkers and horse riders.

The Only Railway on Hayling Now
Eventually I reached Hayling Island station after about forty minutes and was pleased to see that at least some of the original building remains, albeit now part of a bigger complex that acts as a theatre for the local amateur dramatics. Given that it was such a short ride I felt it only right and proper that I should investigate more of the seafront and took myself off down to the beach where I had a look at the only train now running on the island, the miniature Hayling Island railway which runs purely for pleasure along the seafront.

View Across Langstone Harbour
All in all it was a pleasurable little excursion although not really worth a trip in itself. I didn’t explore too much north of the island although I understand another short section can also be followed just north of Langstone village.

1 comment:

  1. Does any body have any information for me about a house called Flint house it was situated at the end of hayling bridge and belonged to an actress called marie tempest if you any info on it please contact me by email

    thank you