Tuesday 24 March 2020

Visiting Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, East Sussex

Rye Harbour Nature Reserve

A great free place to visit

A couple of weeks ago when life was more normal, my husband and I headed out for a walk around the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve and had a quiet lunch together. Of course, right now, we couldn't do that as the pubs are closed and we're all staying home to heed off the coronavirus but I think it is important that we can enjoy the wider outdoors from the comfort of our homes right now.

Also, it's enjoyable to plan where we can go once the lockdown is over and things are safer again. Looking back on photos of all the amazing places I have visited is definitely helping me not to feel so cooped up since we started to self-isolate nearly two weeks ago. 

We were really impressed with the nature reserve, it's free, it is massive (465 hectares to be precise) and there is loads of free parking at the entrance to it, as long as your vehicle is under 2 metres. You are encouraged to make a donation in the car park, to help with its upkeep and ensure it stays free for all to use, but you can't moan at that!

There are easily accessible public toilets too, and nearby are a couple of pubs, a cafe, bed and breakfast, shop and the lifeboat station, all just a few minutes walk from the parking. 

Accessibility and Facilities

You can walk as long or short as you fancy. The main private road from the car park entrance is smooth and suitable for wheelchairs, pushchairs and mobility scooters, even if you just took a trip to the end and back, you'll have had a lovely hour. There are so many different paths and many are flat, but you'd need to check the terrain and see if it is suitable for you.

Dogs are welcome, you're just asked to look after them responsibly and of course clear up after them, using the disposal bins.

It was a weekday when we last visited but the time before was a weekend and we saw lots of families with kids on bikes, roller-skates and scooters. There is so much fun to be had!

At the moment there is an information cabin but the East Sussex Wildlife Trust (who manage the reserve) are currently just putting the finishing touches to a new Discovery Centre, which is on target for a summer opening. This will have an education zone, toilets, information point, cafe and space for educational visits. It sounds as if it will be a great addition to the site and make it useful for all sorts of community and educational groups.  The cabin is normally open at 10am - 4pm daily and until 5pm in the summer. Of course, the Discovery centre may differ when it opens. You can pick up a free map from the information cabin or print one off before you leave home.

See the smooth pathway and the new Discovery Centre

What can you spot?

With a variety of different types of terrain in the reserve such as shingle, saline lagoons, coastal grazing marsh, freshwater gravel pits and reedbeds, it makes for an interesting walk as you see the birds and the vistas changing as you go. There are loads of different plants, insects and small wildlife too, you just need to keep your eyes peeled.

The kinds of birds you're likely to see are Oystercatchers, Knot, Little, Common and Sandwich Terns, Avocet, Ringed Plover, Lapwing, Redshank and Wheatear. Have a look on the website and there are leaflets you can print off to help you spot common winter and summer birds.

If you're a keen bird watcher or photographer there are several hides around the reserve too, so you can set yourself up and sit there for an hour or two to see what you can spot. Many of these are accessible for wheelchair users too.

There was a good amount of information signs and maps around the reserve, so you can spot what the most common birds are and the Sussex Wildlife Trust has a great website with all sorts of useful information that it is worth having a look at before you head out. The what to look out for in which months guide is great, as well as the pages on Camber Castle and Castle Water.

There are also loads of benches all along the tarmac private road and pathways around the reserve. You can do many circular walks by following the paths on the map, or just following your intuition like we did! For the more adventurous, several long-distance footpaths pass close by, including the 1066 Country Walk, the Saxon Shore Way, the High Weald Landscape Trail, the Sussex Border Path and the Royal Military Canal Path.

After around 1200 metres on the tarmac private road, you get to the mouth of the river and the opening on to the beach and it is stunning. It is such a big space that even on a busy day you feel as if you have plenty of space to move about and get a bit of privacy.

There are also several WWII pillboxes around the reserve and you can go inside and have a look around, which makes for wonderful make-believe opportunities for smaller children. We didn't walk that far, but you can also go over to see Camber Castle, which was one of Henry VIIIs castles. There are specified open days when you can go inside, so keep an eye on the website if you're interested in that.

Normally on a Wednesday morning, you can join an organised walk, starting at 10.15am at then Rye harbour toilets. These walks normally last an hour or two and end with the option for refreshments. They are designed to help improve health and wellbeing and give people a chance to see wildlife and meet new people.

Useful Information

Address: Rye Harbour, TN31 7TX
Contact Telephone Number: 07884 494 982
Entrance Cost: Free
Opening Hours: 24 hours
Website: https://sussexwildlifetrust.org.uk/visit/rye-harbour
Facebook: The Rye Harbour Nature Reserve Facebook page is fabulous, really animated with lots of photos and videos
Trip Advisor: The reserve has a 4.5 out of 5 rating on Trip Advisor and there are lots of useful snippets in the comments.
Information for those with disabilities: https://sussexwildlifetrust.org.uk/visit/rye-harbour/getting-around

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