Hayling Island is vital to
the Borough as a tourist resort.
This charming peaceful island with its European Blue Flag beaches and a country village atmosphere is largely responsible for more than £50 million in tourism income to the Borough over the course of a good summer.
The island covers only ten
square miles and is accessible from the
mainland by a road bridge.
Halfway along its four-mile length it is almost cut in two at the point where Mill Rythe, a narrow inlet, comes in on the east side from Chichester Harbour.
At this point the island is only half a mile across.
Almost all the population of the island live south of this narrow 'waist'.
North of this line the villages of Stoke and Northney are the only settlements of any size.
Stoke is a small village on
the main road with a small group of shops at
the point where the road from Northney joins
the main route.
With its many thatched cottages and meandering country lanes, Northney is a place of considerable charm.
The southern part of Hayling is the part of the island best known by holidaymakers, and is a combination of town and country with the settlements of West Town, Gable Head and Eastoke spreading to meet each other but with fields, farms, woods and the sea all within easy reach.
Its main attraction for
visitors is of course its wonderful coastline,
over four miles of it.
Part of the beach, at West Beachlands, now boasts two European Blue Flags, the Tidy Britain Group's Premier Resort Seaside Award and the Solent Water Quality Award in recognition of its high standards of beach and foreshore management and good water quality.
Beachlands itself is over 100 acres of land between Sea Front [road] and the shore.
Its grassy dunes, gorse, wild flowers and bird life provide delightful picnic spots, and its unspoilt nature is what sets it aside from many other, larger, resorts.
Sailing and boardsailing are two activities for which the island is internationally renowned, conditions being perfect for both sports.
In 1996 the historic oyster
beds on the north west coast of Hayling Island
were restored by the Borough Council, creating
a wildlife haven which has become an important
seabird breeding site.
The Design Council awarded this project 'Millennium Product' status for the renovation.
A recent addition to the attractions on Hayling sea front is the East Hayling Light Railway, a narrow gauge train opened in the summer of 2003 running from Beachlands funfair to Eastoke Corner which in its first season of operation had attracted over 20,000 passengers.
An intermediate station is provided at Seagrove Avenue called 'Hornby Halt'.
Hayling's essentially modern appearance hides a more complex history reaching back beyond Saxon and Roman times.
The name is Saxon in origin, meaning the Island of Hegel's People, but when the Saxons first occupied the area there was already a Roman building in North Hayling. By the time of the Domesday survey in 1086, most of the island had been settled.
There were four manors and a population as large as that found in the three mainland parishes of Bedhampton, Havant and Warblington put together.
The largest manor was in South Hayling and had been given by William the Conqueror to the monks of the Abbey of Jumieges
In the 15th century the lands of the Priory, which had been farmed by the King for some time, were given to the Charterhouse by Henry V.
They later came into the possession of the Dukes of Norfolk.
In North Hayling, St Peter's Church, built in 1140, is the loveliest building on the island. It is a fine example of a typical English village church of the Norman period. Its foundations are said to be large 'erratic' stones left as the ice receded in the post-glacial period.
The peal of three bells is said to be the oldest in England, the tenor bell having been dated by the Whitechapel Foundry as from about 1350.
One of the trees surrounding the church is a yew tree, which is at least 800 years old.
However the yew tree in the grounds of St Mary's Church in the parish church of South Hayling exceeds this.
It is said to be almost 1000 years old and has a girth of nine metres. Hayling is a holiday, windsurfing and sailing centre.
Windsurfing was invented on the island. Originally it was thought to be an American invention, but after a court battle the title was given to Hayling Island.
The island features several churches, the most notable of which is St Mary's Church in Gable Head.
The church is a standard design of the churches of its era, but upon close examination the walls have been constructed from a mortar of local shells and beach pebbles.
The churchyard features a yew tree that is believed to be over 800 years old.
The grave of Scotsman George Sandeman, the founder of Sandeman Port is prominently featured in the north-east part of the graveyard.