Hayling Billy Trail

The line was opened by the LBSCR for goods on January 19th 1865, and for passengers on July 16th 1897. Over the winter of 1962 it was decided to close the branch line, the reason being the old timber bridge that crossed Langstone Harbour needed expensive repairs. The company could not afford the repairs and thus the line took its final fare paying customers on November 3 1963.

Many years on and the route of the Hayling Billy Line has been opened as a combined footpath, bridleway and cycleway and passes down the west side of the island. It is part of route 2 of the National Cycle Network.

Over the years I must have driven on and off Hayling Island many hundreds of times and  was aware of the Hayling Billy Trail but until now had never visited.

So there we were on a very chilly Tuesday afternoon, with the sunshine coming and going, but spending most of the time hidden behind the clouds. At least it wasn’t raining. We parked up in the car park at the northern end of the trail.

Looking north from the trail toward the road bridge.

As you follow the trail you can see many clues linking back to parts of the old railway . Some are a little more obvious than others. The most obvious are the remains of the old railway bridge.

Hayling Billy Railway Bridge
Remains of Hayling Billy Signal

As you head south down the trail to your right are the remains of the oyster beds. These are now home to many sea birds and attract many “twitchers”.

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)
Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)

The trail is very popular and we met many folks out walking their dogs, whole family’s cycle riding and even a couple of ladies on horseback. We spent an enjoyable couple of hours strolling along taking in the scenery while the fresh air blew away the cobwebs.

Late afternoon – Hayling Billy Trail

After we got back to the car we headed up to the top of Portsdown Hill for a cup of tea courtesy of Mick’s Burger Bar. There we were treated to a beautiful sunset.

Sunset – Portsdown Hill

3 thoughts on “Hayling Billy Trail”

  1. Looks lovely. 🙂

    I’m probably being stupid here, but why is the bridge now submerged?

    1. Not submerged only the base of the old bridge remains. The reason the line was discontinued was that the railway company of the time could not afford to repair the bridge. Shame because that forced all the people and goods traffic onto the road which means humongous traffic jams at times.

  2. The railway company was British Railways, so it would not have been a matter of couldn’t afford it. From what I’ve read, the Hayling Billy operated at a small profit. Nevertheless, a deliberate decision was made not to invest in repairs to the bridge, and they closed the line.

    Remember that 1963 was smack bang in the period of Dr Beeching, and the decisions to slash huge chunks of the UK railway network.

    People were not, in general, forced onto the roads. It was a choice, cars were the individual transport, people wanted them. Ownership was rocketing. Also, the railway system was underinvested, goods loading systems at stations were not updated.

    50 years down the way, it all looks rather different. Railway useage has rocketed. More and more people have got fed up driving on congested roads. And lots of the closures, appear in retrospect to have been plain wrong.

    Interestingly though, if you go to Google Maps, select Satellite View, and go to some of the closed rail lines that you may know about….,you’ll find that most of the trackbeds are often still there, and could be restored. Also, central government looks intent to pour billions into the HS2 project, just so that a few London businessmen can reduce their journey times by a few minutes.

    A fraction of the monies for that could rebuild the closed Grand/Great Central Railway.., the route and trackbed of which almost follows that of the proposed HS2.

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