Cash grant set to give Hayling Billy a new lease of life

PEACEFUL The Hayling Billy trail is a nature hotspot
PEACEFUL The Hayling Billy trail is a nature hotspot
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A LOTTERY grant of almost £90,000 will help to transform one of the area’s most cherished assets.

The windfall is set to give the Hayling Billy trail a new lease of life with information points, the restoration of the remnants of the railway, and sprucing up the route so it can be enjoyed by all.

The announcement by Heritage Lottery Fund comes on the 50th year since the closure of the railway, which ran from Havant to the island for almost a century until it was axed in 1963.

During the summer thousands of people got involved with exhibitions, plays and talks about the history of the track, which now boasts two nature reserves.

On November 2, the 50-year anniversary, more than 1,000 people visited The Spring in Havant for an exhibition.

Peter Drury, from Widley, a wildlife photographer who led the Hayling Billy 50 project, said: ‘I couldn’t think of a better Christmas present, especially on the anniversary of the 50th year since it closed.

‘I am absolutely thrilled – we have got an exciting year to come. This has been in the melting pot for two years and at last we are successful.’

The grant was applied for through a partnership of local volunteers and Hampshire county and Havant borough councils.

The project is still in its infancy, but it is hoped that information points can be installed.

The partnership hopes to spruce up the northern section of the trail and restore the remaining signal.

Viewpoints and seating could be provided so people can enjoy the wildlife.

A project officer will be employed to drive forward the improvements, which will include conservation work.

Local people will be encouraged to get involved.

Councillor Yvonne Weeks, who is in charge of communities at the borough council, said: ‘The benefits for the local community will be a heritage project for generations to come and a focus for community volunteers to work on together to create a lasting legacy for local people and visitors.

‘The partnership has worked really hard with the council officers on securing the funding however, this is just the start.’