A day out to Hayling Billy with MP Alan Mak
I recently spent a chilly but thoroughly invigorating afternoon on Hayling Island with Alan Mak MP, my HLF colleague Senior Grants Officer Seun Soyemi and the team involved in turning a defunct railway line into a thriving community resource.
The Hayling Island Branch was a railway, sometimes known as the Hayling Billy, a name now given to the footpath along the old track. 2013 marked the 50th anniversary of the closure of the line and presented an opportunity for Hayling Island residents and visitors to celebrate and remember this once used transport system.
The project, led by local volunteers and community groups, supported by Havant Borough Council and Hampshire County Council, has breathed new life into the line. The old signal has been restored, memories and photographs of the line collected in a booklet and the biodiversity of the area safeguarded by the development of a strong network of volunteers.
[quote= Alan Mak MP]"I enjoyed coming back to the Hayling Billy with HLF. They've provided vital funding to local volunteers to protect and enhance the Hayling Billy." [/quote]
Rachel Moroney, Team Leader with the Conservation Volunteers, talked to us during the visit about working with a growing network of committed volunteers to maintain the hedgerows and edgeways along the trail. The area around the path is an extremely important habitat for tens of thousands of seabirds as well as numerous other flora and fauna, and community investment in its custodianship is key to its future.
Peter Drury, who spearheaded the fundraising campaign, explained how his initial passion for seeing the rusty old signal restored grew into a project encompassing natural heritage and social history: conservation training, archival footage, improved interpretation and the excellent, user-friendly Hayling Billy website have all formed part of the work.
Alan Mak MP said: "I enjoyed coming back to the Hayling Billy with HLF. They've provided vital funding to Peter Drury and local volunteers to protect and enhance the Hayling Billy allowing local residents and the community to enjoy the much-loved asset."
It was great seeing the enthusiasm of the volunteers at Hayling Island and showing Alan the transformative difference that money, raised by National Lottery players, can bring to a community. I’ll certainly think about how I show more MPs their local HLF-supported projects and, when visits to our wonderful projects take place in winter, ensure I’m wrapped up and warm.