Police and coastguards have called off a desperate search for two young boys who were feared to have drowned off a popular tourist beach.

After four hours of searching, police announced they were standing down the search, as they no longer believed any children were in danger.

Earlier, officers had asked for the parents of the two boys, believed to be from Portsmouth, to get back in touch with officers.

The boys - aged six and eight - were reported to have been last seen near the historic Appley Tower in Ryde, Isle of Wight, shortly after midday.

Their distressed parents contacted emergency services a short while later to report them missing.

The search included the Maritime and Coastguard Agency helicopter, RNLI lifeboat, and Hampshire and Isle of Wight Constabulary.

The resort is popular with families who flock to the area to enjoy the award-winning sandy beaches.

Local shopkeepers said the boys - who were both said to be wearing swimming trunks - had travelled across the Solent from their home in Portsmouth.

Jason Hawkes, 42, who runs the beachfront Dell Cafe, said emergency services were combing the area.

He said: "The police have come in four or five times asking if we have seen two boys matching the description.

"We have been extremely busy because there are lots of families enjoying the nice weather during their summer holidays.

"However, we haven't seen the boys in here.

"The helicopter has passed overhead several times over the past hours as they combed the water but it has now moved south, following the tide.

"Lots of youngsters have been playing in the water, and there is a chance they got carried away by the tide.

"Hopefully they have just nipped off to get an ice cream or have wandered off somewhere. I feel for the parents, who must be going out of their minds."

Maggie Hill, from the MCA, refused to speculate on what may have happened but said emergency services was "making every effort" to locate the boys.

She added: "We are currently searching for two young boys who were last seen around 12 noon.

"The six year old was wearing pale blue trunks. He has dark brown hair, pale skin, and dark brown eyes.

"The eight year old was wearing red trunks, and has a mole on his left shoulder.

"They were last seen by their parents around midday near Appley Tower on Ryde beach and reported missing a short while later.

"The search involves the coastguard rescue team, our helicopter, and Ryde RNLI lifeboat.

"The police are also looking for the boys on land."

Duncan Smith, from Hampshire and Isle of Wight Constabulary, said: "Police were called by Solent Coastguard at 1.21pm to a report of two missing boys on the seafront at Ryde."