Hayling Billy trail restoration
The Hayling Billy trail runs all the way up the west side of the island starting in West Town and ending near the bridge. It is open to walkers, cyclists and horse riders (although not technically a bridleway).
It continues on the mainland, but with a much better sealed surface, crossing the main road at Langstone, past the Spring Centre in Havant and ends at Havant railway station.
Since its creation from the old railway line in the 1980’s, following a campaign by a group of cyclists inspired by Sustrans, its condition has deteriorated badly. Nowadays, you need a pretty tough bike and a pretty tough rider, and in the wet you’ll get plastered.
Worse, a section of the trail collapsed into the sea in 2015. That was repaired (leaving a very poor surface) but the repair was only temporary, and it remains vulnerable to the sea. Amazingly, the official sea defence policy is currently to ‘do nothing’. Hampshire County Council is committing in principle to replace any trail lost by moving it inland, but until its future is guaranteed, justifying investment will be hard.
These issues don’t just affect cyclists, but also walkers, push chairs, prams, mobility scooters and wheelchairs. Cycle Hayling is therefore campaigning to defend and restore the trail with a properly drained, all-weather surface. The mainland section of the trail shows what is possible.
At the north end, an orange, sacrificial, self-binding gravel has been tried. The jury is still out on whether it’s a good enough surface in all weathers, and on how long it will last, but in any event, it couldn’t be used in more exposed sections – it will just wash away.
So we’re still looking for a surface that is acceptable to all users and to all stakeholders, and for the money to do it.
However, we are actively working to upgrade the Saltmarsh Lane footpath to cycling, which links the Billy Trail to West Lane, thanks to council funding. And we’re planning a new Smooth the Path surface that will be better, not just for cycling, but also for pushchairs, disabled buggies and child scooters. We hope this will give us good evidence of what works and what can become acceptable in such a sensitive area.
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