Memories of Hayling Island

Last updated on January 11, 2024

Kids at Hayling Island

One day you see a photo on Facebook that brings back pangs of childhood memories that will never be relived because the two people you wish for most aren’t there. But this time, instead of crying, you wish you were there, because the memory lives on without the faces you miss, and continues in the faces that abide.

I want to go to Hayling Island. My parents and I had a caravan there when I was small. My aunt had one in the same park and we’d go there throughout the summer for weeks or weekends at a time.

I wrote in my Year 3 report that crabbing was my favourite hobby. I’d stand there for what felt like hours with my cousins, net in hand, before we caught a bucketful and took it back to horrify our Nan.

Helterskelter
The photo that started the nostalgia. I’ve been riding on this slide since I was three, and the one at the back was 15.

Even before the caravan, we’d pilgrimage to Hayling to fill the holiday parks with our Irish family, a medley of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. When the cousins grew up, their children took centre stage. I floated in the middle, five years their senior, eleven years the older ones’ minor – both the little and the big one. My Mum was the youngest of six.

The fair was our favourite stomping ground. Twirling on the waltzer and braving the roller coaster. The smallest would stand on our feet to pass the height restriction, tricking the attendant’s eye. And on Thursday – the day of unlimited rides – my dad would dig into his archive of coloured wristbands, collected from every Thursday before, and hope that this week, we’d have a match.

We rowed on inflatable boats, tried to skim stones across the sea, and performed dances to our favourite songs. I don’t have any brothers and sisters, but my cousins filled that gap.

Hayling island
I like to think they’re staring wistfully out to sea, thinking of me in Bali 🙂

I don’t remember selling the caravan or when we stopped going to Hayling. It happened during the mess of years that saw the decline of my Dad’s drinking, the advent of my teens, and a shift in focus to trying to hold our family together. I still went there, a few times over the years, but the joy in it diminished – the absence of my parents taking precedence.

But now I wish I was there. Facebook is filled with pictures of my family having the summer of my youth. The little ones who stood on my toes are now adults, the babies are the big ones, and there’s a whole new generation of children catching crabs. My parents and my Nan may not be there, but the legacy lives on.

This is the peril of travelling. I love where I am and know it’s where I need to be right now, but oh how I wish I could teleport.

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13 thoughts on “Memories of Hayling Island”

  1. My grandparents had a caravan in Northamptonshire and I spent my childhood holidays there. I wished the week away until Friday came around again. Friday was the day the fish and chip van was in town, when my cousins arrived and most importantly when we got to visit the fair. I’d spend hours putting 2p into the slot machines and was so excited when I was rewarded was with 10p!

    When I returned from my travels in 2004, I helped my grandparents pack up the caravan for the last time. It felt like I’d lost a piece of my childhood. Reading this has just bought back all those found memories. Thanks Victoria!

    Reply
    • Ah, the 2p machine! I was obsessed by them. I still like to have a go whenever I see one! I’m pleased this helped to bring back memories for you too. Nothing quite like a bit of nostalgia every now and then!

      Reply
  2. Sometimes I wonder if wanderlust is just a fancy word for trying to get back to a place where we made no mistakes, and every single moment was still untainted by the evanescent nature of things. Thank you for the memories of youthful summers by the sea.

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  3. Those days as kids were the best. Oh how I wish I could go back. I don’t think it matters where you are in the world it what you’re doing. Nothing can replace the moment you felt as a kid.

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    • That’s true! I think that’s why I’d like to see my cousins children experiencing something similar to what I did – to capture some of that magic.

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  4. I used to go to Devon every autumn half term with my mum, her two best friends and their kids. No dads, just a group of mums and little ones. Two of the mums have gone now, but us kids are still as close as ever 🙂 I really hope we’ll all be heading for Devon again when we have children of our own! Gorgeous post, Victoria – I know exactly where you’re coming from 🙂

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  5. Beautiful! Nostalgia is a funny thing, isn’t it? The desire to re-capture old memories from a time which no longer exists is sad, yes, longing for what is lost (and I’m so sorry you lost your parents), but also strangely comforting to have experienced such pure, simple joy. Just catching up on your posts and enjoyed the energy one. Sending you a big virtual hug across continents and oceans… Can you feel it?

    Reply

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