What it's like to live on Hayling Island
- Credit: Mike Owens
Live the Island life, and without the hassle of a ferry crossing
Think of an island off the Hampshire coastline and the Isle of Wight probably springs to mind.
Hayling Island, anchored close to the county border with West Sussex, can slip under the radar. Yet Hayling (as it is referred to colloquially) has an island’s attributes - that sense of otherness and relaxed on-holiday vibe - without the logistics and expense of a ferry crossing; for Hayling Island is joined to mainland Hampshire by a road bridge.
Just four miles long and four miles wide at its broad, southern end, Hayling floats between the sheltered waters of Langstone Harbour to the west and Chichester Harbour to the east, making it an ideal location for marinas and sailing clubs (including top notch Hayling Island Sailing Club, community-based Mengeham Rythe and small Hayling Ferry Sailing Club). Inevitably Hayling draws sailors, but it also attracts a (possibly) younger, cooler crowd (sorry yachties) of windsurfers and kitesurfers who regularly ride the breakers created by gusty winds and offshore sandbanks along the south-facing beach – creating a stunning spectacle for the onlooker.
However, a broad range of activities is available on Hayling. There is a choice of golf courses: one is a links course with views across the Solent, another is a golf centre with driving range, while a third is a seafront pitch and putt course. Meanwhile Wimbledon hopefuls can practise on the tennis courts at Hayling Park (annual family membership is a reasonable £35) or join Seacourt Tennis Club which has a surprising selection of sports including badminton, real tennis, squash and fencing. In addition the island’s low, level landscape offers easy walking and cycling with numerous footpaths and cycling routes, such as the Hayling Billy Trail, a coastal path ambling along the bed of the old railway from West Town to Havant. So, that’s sporty types sorted.
For those with a serious shopping habit, Hayling is probably not the best. Day-to-day facilities are found in two or three shopping areas scattered around the island including Elm Grove (probably the closest Hayling gets to a high street) with a range of independents from bookshop to bakery (family-run Heidi’s is based on Hayling), and essentials such as banks and very good hardware store. I would describe it as a fairly old-fashioned retail experience that’s not without its charms. Locals can always pop across to Southsea and Portsmouth on the Hayling Ferry. This passenger service was relaunched two years ago this August, to-ing and fro-ing across the mouth of Langstone Harbour (from 8.40am weekends and 6.50am weekdays - to suit commuters and schoolchildren).
Hayling’s eating out experience tends towards cafes and tea rooms. Gems include Salt Shack at Northney Marina, Northney Farm Tea Rooms on a family-run dairy farm, Meadow Farm Nursery Tea Room and Madhatters on the seafront (which also hosts weekly supper clubs). Otherwise there are traditional chippies, country pubs and a choice of takeaways. A few worth a mention include: Maypole Inn, a popular local serving traditional homemade pub food; Inn on the Beach, with tasty menu, stylish interior and fab location, Bay of Bengal for Indian and Bangladeshi cuisine and Niyom Thai for authentic Thai food. Somewhere else that’s highly recommended is Ralphs Wine, Gin & Tapas Bar – serving what it says on the signage, plus cocktails.
Home hunters will find an engaging hotch potch of property, from thatch cottages to chalet bungalows and Victorian villas to modern apartments in a variety of settings. Northern Hayling is a rural escape, particularly around unspoiled Northeney village with country lanes winding through a lush, rural landscape of field and hedgerow. The southern end is more developed with the south-eastern tip (Eastoke area) a muddle of home styles including Art Deco, charming shacks and the occasional contemporary concoction of glass and cedar. Just back from the seafront, Mengham and South Hayling comprise mostly individual family houses on leafy lanes. Going west, West Town has a similar feel with some rather splendid houses tucked behind high hedges. For somewhere with a more away-from-it-all feel, the western tip, reached by Ferry Lane, feels untamed and has a cluster of houseboats and cabins. All in all, there’s a property to suit everyone, whether second home owners, retirees or families, looking for a lifestyle gear change and simple pleasures of beach huts, narrow gauge railway and ice cream parlours.
Families may also be drawn by the Island’s schooling. Mill Rythe Infant, Mengham Infant and Junior Schools are all ‘good’ says Ofsted, while Mill Rythe Junior is rated ‘outstanding’. At secondary level, Hayling College received a ‘good’ from Ofsted earlier this year (February 2018). There is also a great choice of independents (among them Portsmouth Grammar School, Portsmouth High School and St John’s College) in Southsea and Portsmouth, and accessible via Hayling Ferry. How about a boat trip for a memorable start to the school day?
Another bonus with island life is the sense of community. Most local residents are involved with and support local organisations and services. These include Hayling Lifeboat Station and Station Theatre, converted from the old Goods Shed by HIADS (Hayling Island Amateur Dramatic Society), who have fun staging performances such as The Vicar of Dibley (18-25 August), adapted from the original TV series.
Overall Hayling Island succeeds in feeling safer, slower and gentler than the more frenetic paced mainland. The main drawback is that it can take a while getting on and off the island at peak time. That said, beyond picturesque Langstone, there are good road links to the A27 and A3 and the mainline station at Havant (London Waterloo in about 90 minutes more or less); making Hayling a bit of an easy getaway.
Agent talk - Craig Towersey, Henry Adams, Emsworth
“Summer is the most active time for buying and selling on Hayling Island. It has long been a popular holiday destination, but it also has a wide appeal year-round with great beaches, fantastic water sports and a wide selection of homes from period houses to brand new. There’s a large retirement community here with lots of people having moved down from London after perhaps holidaying here as children in the post-war years. The easy link to London both by road and rail means Hayling Island is also a good second home location. It’s certainly very popular with the sailing fraternity with some first class family sailing clubs and is the home of windsurfing and kitesurfing.
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Prices on Hayling Island are generally lower than on the mainland, but it’s catching up. Prices for apartments start from £170,000 up to about £700,000 for a seafront position- understandably, there’s a big premium for a view. We’re currently marketing a three bedroom detached chalet for £600,000 with views across the Solent to the Isle of Wight from an enormous balcony 25ft by10ft.
Two bedroom houses can be found for less than £300,000 and there is plenty of family-sized housing for people attracted by the outdoor lifestyle and good local schools. The majority of homes on Hayling Island were built in the post-war period or you can head to Northney Village, home to some of the oldest properties on the island.
One of the loveliest places is Ferry Point which has a great beach, passenger ferry to Portsmouth, and a great pub, too, the Ferryboat Inn."