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Hayling Island is a true island, completely surrounded by natural watercourses at all states of the tide. Looking at its north to south orientation, it is shaped like an inverted T, about 6.5 kilometres (4 miles) long and 6.5 kilometres wide. A road bridge connects its northern end to the mainland of England. A small passenger ferry connects it to the neighbouring island of Portsea where the city of Portsmouth is located. To the west is Langstone Harbour and to the east is Chichester Harbour.
The natural beach at Hayling was predominantly sandy but in recent years it has been mechanically topped with shingle dredged from the bed of the Solent in an effort to reduce beach erosion and reduce the potential to flood low lying land. At low tide, the West Winner sandbank is visible, extending a mile out to sea. The coastline in this area has substantially changed since Roman times: it is believed much land has been lost from the coasts of Hayling and Selsey by erosion and subsequent flooding.
An iron-age shrine in the north of Hayling Island was later developed into a Roman temple in the first century BC and was first recorded in Richard Scott's Topographical and Historical Account of Hayling Island published in 1826. The site was excavated between 1897 and 1907 and again from 1976 to 1978. Remains are no longer visible and are buried beneath cultivated farmland.
Salt production was an industry on the island from the 11th century (the Domesday Book recorded a saltpan on the island for this purpose) until the late 19th century.
At the Northwest corner of the island lies the Hayling Oysterbeds Local Nature Reserve.
Hayling Island was the location of a mock invasion during the military exercise Fabius in May 1944, rehearsing the preparations for D-Day.
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