South Hayling roads and carparks
The single main road leading south from the bridge divides three or four times before reaching the south coast of the island. The first choice of route occurs in Stoke village in the series of sharp bends a little south of the Esso garage. If you are heading for the south west corner of the island your quickest route is down West Lane which is the first turning to the right after you enter the bends (no problem if you miss it - all roads lead to the south coast along which you turn east or west according to your destination). If you stay on the main road your next choice comes at a roundabout where the main road continues straight ahead to come out at Beachlands centre (funfair, tourist info and Beachlands management offices, etc). If you are heading for Eastoke (Sandy Point/Black Point) you turn left at the round about and go down Church Road, past St Mary's church and Hayling School, and through the main shopping centre (Elm Grove) in which there is another major division of the routes - straight on to the seafront or left into Selsmore Road which is the shorter route to the Eastoke area and also takes you into Mengham. There is plenty of car-parking along the south coast but you have to pay all year round. If you are intending to walk in other areas than the shore it is still possible to find free roadside parking in a very few places (but you will probably have to invest in a street map to find them!).
If you come down West Lane and want to access the coastal path or shore in the Saltmarsh Lane area turn west into Saltmarsh Lane then first right into Denhill Close where you can usually park and walk along the path which continues from the end of the close. If you want to access the south end of the coastal path there is limited free parking at West Town Station. In the Sinah area there is effectively no free parking though there is space for one or two cars to pull in by the entrance to the path up the east side of The Kench while you walk up that path. To use the paths running north south between Mill Rythe holiday camp entrance and Mengham House you can park in Beech Grove on the south side of Tournerbury Lane, and to walk the Mengham shore paths you can park in Seaview Road. Finally, if heading for Sandy Point or Black Point you may find a free space along the east end of Southwood Road or you can drive along Sandy Point Road until you come to the north boundary of the Sandy Point reserve where there is a grass verge on which you can park by the reserve fence.
South Hayling west shore
The coastal path runs alongside the shore from Stoke Bay down almost to the Saltmarsh Lane copse, and the shore is accessible right down to Northshore Lane (the houses on the seaward side of this run down to the shore and you cannot walk along in front of them). For bird-watchers there is a continuous panorama of the harbour, but as you go south the main Langstone Channel gets further from the shore and the birds are well spread out over the mud at low tide with many of them gathering on what (for lack of any name I can find) I call the 'mid-way saltings'. To make up for the distant shorebirds the hedges and bushes beside the path attract Whitethroat and Yellowhammer in the summer, and the 'West Lane fields' often have singing Skylark, replaced at winter high tides by large flocks of Brent and roosts of Lapwing and Curlew.
Where the coastal path passes the line of Daw Lane there is a very small copse where the first Primroses can be seen, and the saltings north of it are interesting botanically with plants such as Slender Hare's Ear to be found in late summer preceded by an increasing number of Yellow Horned Poppies and a great mass of Danish Scurvygrass. A 'wild pear' grows by the path here and I like to think it came from a fruit thrown from a carriage window as the train carried a happy holidaymaker to their destination.
The Kench and south west shore of Langstone Harbour
The Kench is a local nature reserve run by the County Council who purchased it after a series of attempts to develop it as a marina had failed in the planning process. The whole of this inlet can be seen from Ferry Road and there is also a path up the east side taking you to the shore of Langstone Harbour and just north of the mouth of the Kench is a large shingle bank running north - the only remnant of an early attempt to construct a railway line doomed to failure by the wind and waves in the harbour. Looking north west from here you can also see the remants of a more recent contest between man and the sea, a section of the famous Mulberry Harbour contructed to serve the Normandy beachheads in the second world war.
East of the Kench is the Sinah Warren holiday camp, and in the season there is usually a line of holidaymakers making a circuit of the area by going west along Ferry Road, north beside the Kench and then east back into the Sinah Warren grounds. Although this is private property you are unlikelt to be evicted if you walk along the shore here, giving you a chance to see the interesting tidal creeks between Sinah Warren and Northshore road (this is one of the few untouched sections of the island's shoreline). Behind these creeks are pony fields and stables that are part of the Sinah Warren complex, and if you walk inland through the complex you can either emerge on Ferry Road or turn left down a track under trees just before reaching the road to get to the stables where rare birds often turn up (but remember this is private land). You can also view these pony fields from a public footpath that goes north from Ferry Road opposite the east end of Sinah Lake to reach Sinah Lane via Warren Close.
Langstone Harbour mouth and the Hayling Ferry
Ferry Road ends at the foot-passenger ferry to Eastney which normally runs every 20 minutes and costs you about £1. The Langstone Harbourmaster is based here on the north side of the road, and south of it is the Ferry Inn which has a large free carpark for its customers (and external public toilets). Running south from the inn along the shore of the harbour mouth is an even larger public carpark but there is a significant charge for parking all the year round.
From the ferry area you can walk south with the golf course on your left and the harbour mouth on your right. This is a very rich and interesting area for the botanist, with shingle, sand dunes and sandy grassland all in large measure. The sand dunes start south of the Ferry Sailing Club and lie against the south west corner of the golf course. Round the corner, south of the golf course, they gradually peter out but leave a broad expanse of grassland and shingle. Among many unusual plants there is a large colony of Green Winged orchids and a mass of Little Robin to be found, though to the uninitiated the dominant plants are the Seak Kale and Yellow Horned Poppy on the shingle and a mass of Wild Lupin on the foothills of the dunes. In early spring the first Wheatear can usually be found here with the first Sandwich Tern pssing along the sea, in winter Sanderling run over the exposed sand of the East Winner and in summer I have watched Black Tern fishing in the same place.
The Golf Course
The land south and west of the Golf Course fence is owned by the Golf Course which allows public access to the land outside the fence where there is much to interest the naturalist. Within the fence there is just as much if not more interest but there is not access to it for the naturalist as such. He can get reasonable views of the birds on the lake and can see the occasional Stonechat, Wheatear or Dartford Warbler on the course (I have had excellent views of a Buff Breasted Sandpiper once and of Short Eared Owl on more than one occasion) but he will not see the swathe of Southern Marsh orchids that grow in a linear depression, nor be able to search for the Royal Fern that once grew in the watery section just south of Ferry Road which is in fact declared as a Hampshire Wildlife Trust Nature Reserve (the original reason for declaring it a nature reserve was the 'discovery' of rare Seaside Centaury - though later the identity of the plant in question was queried)
Many people think of Beachlands as the area immediately around the 'fun fair' but the term is applied by Havant Borough to the whole of the 'beachland' south of the Sea Front road west from Eastoke Corner (where it meets Rails Lane) to Gunner Point, and includes the land north of Ferry Road west of Sinah Lane. Within this area the Golf Course and Sinah Warren are privately owned, and the Kench is owned by the County Council, but the rest of the land south of the road is owned and managed by the Borough from an office near the fun fair. This whole area is of significant botanic interest and considering the conflicting needs of visitors for amusement and carparking it is managed sympathetically - unfortunately those 'recreational interests' keep increasing. Despite this interesting plants continue to be found - in 1997 an invader for North America (Common Fiddleneck or Amsinkia micrantha) was found for the first time, and in searching for it in 1998 an even more interesting discovery was made of several plants of Childing Pink (Petrorhagia nanteuilii) which had previously been thought to be confined to West Sussex.
Sandy and Black Points
Sandy Point is the south east tip of the island and is a large remanant of the sandy heathland that most have been the natural state of much of South Hayling at the start of the 20th Century. It was saved from development by being the grounds of a hospital that once stood near to the present Lifeboat station. Nowadays the grounds have been saved as a County Council Nature Reserve but the site of the hospital itself has been lost to new housing. The reserve, and the shore surrounding it, are very important sites for both plants and birds. This is not the place to detail the specialities of the place but if you are interested you can contact the County Council Countryside Rangers who manage the place on 023-9247-6411 to ask when they are next leading a guided walk for the public. Although there is no public access to the reserve you can walk around three sides of it with good views into the reserve and with free access to many species that occur on the heath and shore which surround the reserve.
Black Point is also private property but there is a public footpath up the causeway leading to it and along the southern shore of the club site (and in fact no one is likely to object to you walking all round the periphery of the club site). From the causeway you can overlook the mouth and southern parts of Chichester Harbour and to the west of the club site there is a shingle mound (locally known as 'Seagull Island') which is only covered at the highest tides and which normally has a significant wader roost in winter. There are plenty of plants here also to interest the botanist - sea holly on the causeway and Hare's Tail grass on the sand dunes south of the club are just two examples (though some, such as Bugloss - as opposed to Viper's Bugloss - and the huge Cotton Thistles at the western point may have come out of wildflower seed packets.
There is a public path along the whole of the shore from the north end of Selsmore Avenue, past the Mengham Rythe Sailing Club and the Fishery Lane Holiday Camp to emerge on St Hermans Road. The best part of this is probably the start where you are opposite Tournerbury Wood but the boating lake at Fishery Lane can have interesting birds in the winter. Marine Walk is also worth following.
The wood (which has a small heronry) and the Tournerbury Marsh area north of it are now inaccessible to the public but there is a public path leading from the junction of Selsmore Road and Salterns Lane north past Mengham House and on across Tournerbury Lane to the entrance of the Mill Rythe holiday camp (where he come out on the main Havant Road) and this is my preferred cycle route north after visiting the Sandy Point area but the wildlife interest of the route is small (better than the main roads!)
There is no easy parking if you drive down Mill Rythe Lane but a walker can get to the shore through the boatyard and continue along the west and south shores of Mill Rythe out to where it turns south into Tournerbury Marsh. My chief associations with this area are the continuing presence of much Chicory and Lucerne flowering along the west shore and of interesting birds (including hunting Merlin) over the saltings, holiday camp and Tournerbury Marsh.
This is possibly the biggest and best wader roost in Chichester Harbour as well as being a botanically very rich site for saltmarsh plants. There is no free public access, but the point is owned by the County Council and it is possible that you might be able to join the occasional conducted tour - ring the Countryside Rangers on 01705-462879 to find out. What you can do in this area is to walk along a path starting from Copse Lane (not far from the Havant Road) which goes along the shore north of Verner Common and, at its east end, turns north between houses to emerge into Woodgason Lane along which you can walk to rejoin Copse Lane at Upper Tye Farm.
This area of farmland between St Mary's church and Manor Road has several paths crossing it and is worth exploring (once a passing Corncrake hit overhead wires and fell dead among the cabbages in one of the fields!) but you are more likely to find interest in plants than in birds.