Rye Nature Reserve and Camber Castle.

Sunday 21 September 2014 – Rye, East Sussex – Part two.

Our Saturday in the lovely East Sussex village of Rye turned into a big day with too many things to see and do to fit it all onto one post, so in a very rare event I decided to split the day sort of in half and do two posts. Yesterday’s post had us looking around the village and the very old inn we were staying in and finished as we found a small cafe on the edge of town to stop in for lunch.

We had initially planned on walking out of town, along the edge of the River Rother down to the sea and then northwards across Camber Sands towards Dungeness and its charming power plant. However after visiting the information centre and seeing a map I wanted to visit Camber Castle which is on the south side of the river and in the middle of the Rye Nature Reserve. This also meant a walk down the river to the sea, with the bonus of a castle and a double bonus of no power station – so that is what we decided to do.

After crossing the river on the edge of town we found a narrow and twisting track through about a million nettle bushes that slightly more scenically took us down to the river, the second option was to walk by the roadside, so while this was a little stingy in parts, at least we were away from the traffic.

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It did not last for long and we soon walking on the edge of the nature reserve and some farm land – and I could see the castle off in the distance, which kept me nice and excited.

Just past the village of Rye Harbour we found the first of a string of Martello Towers, these were built to protect the harbour during the Napoleonic Wars in 1809. This one was built on the edge of the sea, which is now, only 200 or so years later, almost a kilometre away… I liked the tower but was disappointed we were not allowed to go near it.

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The walk from the village down by the river was really nice, if very bleak. I loved the clouds and the absence of trees or any life apart from birds.

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This is real birder country and there was a hide on the edge of the marsh land that had half a dozen birders perched over their binoculars, looking out over the water.

On the edge of the beach are a couple of pillboxes left over from the war, a modern rendition of the Napoleonic Martello Towers.

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There is also a long sea wall built that is constantly being extended to prevent the pebbly beach washing across the rover mouth – sealing off the river and the harbour forever.

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I really enjoyed the walk down the beach towards Winchelsea and Hastings, and I took way more photos than the load that I have posted here. I really would have liked to have had my big camera with its wide angle to really capture the immensity of the scene, but then it would have taken all day and I wouldn’t have made it that far.

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There is an old Royal Navy Lifeboat Institution shed on the beach and just before we reached it we followed one of the lovely old and slowly disintegrating groynes to the small path at the top. Which was a bit of a relief as walking on those pebbles for a couple of kilometres was hard work.

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The lifeboat shed on the beach is used as a memorial to the seventeen members of a Rye lifeboat crew who all tragically perished in a storm as they went to rescue the crew of a stranded Latvian ship back in 1928. It was later discovered that the Latvian crew had already been rescued.

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On that cheery note we soon turned inland and followed the path around the far edges of the ponds to find Camber Castle. I was really looking forward to seeing the castle as it is a really unusual design.

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The castle was started in 1512 as a circular tower built to defend the harbour at Rye, it was extended in 1544 with four smaller circular towers built around the outside and linked by walls. It was the first of a series of castles built under King Henry VIII to defend the harbours in Rye Bay. Like the Martello Towers and Ypres Tower in Rye itself, the building of the castle was rendered pointless as it was abandoned in less than hundred years later as the shoreline moved too far away.

I took a few photos as we walked around the outside and was looking forward to going in for a look at this quite different style of castle. I was rudely shocked to find the castle is only open to tours at 2:00pm on the first Saturday of the month in the summer. What bullshit. I was a bit aggravated to say the least and may have said some bad words that reflected poorly on English Heritage….

I was so disappointed, as it is lovely. I really liked the wind and sea air damage to the stone walls, and I can see that the site is potentially unsafe, but nanny state rules gone mad again.

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There were some more lovely squally rain clouds as we walked back towards Rye, and I could not help myself but take some more photos.

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I think El got tired of waiting !

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We crossed over a very tidal side river and were soon back in town, up the short steep road to the Mermaid Inn and sitting in the side outside with a well earned gin and tonic.

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As we had had a very light lunch we decided to eat early and headed out just after six. We had seen a nice looking restaurant as we walked town earlier in the day and this was one was quite reasonably priced compared to most – still ‘west end’ prices though. Rye is very expensive ! We were lucky to get a seat as long as we were finished before 8:00 as it was fully booked out. We did have a great meal and a nice bottle of rose to go with it. Much better than last night!

We had a bit of a lie in on Sunday morning, followed by breakfast in the hotel – I didn’t eat as much as yesterday though ! After breakfast we packed up and checked out before heading back to the station. We had read earlier that the train had been replaced by a bus service to Ashford, we were not sure on how many buses were running and how many people were likely to be there so we took the cautious route and went early. Luckily.

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The bus service was a cluster-disaster, buses didnt arrive, the station attendant had no idea what was going on. After almost an hour of waiting and people coming the other way arriving by taxi the station attendant came out to tell us the bus was half an hour away. It arrived as she walked back into the station…

From there it was an uneventful journey to Ashford, where we managed to catch the fast train into London and home.

It was another pretty awesome weekend away. We both loved Rye.

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Wannabe writer and photographer. Interested in travel and place. From Auckland, New Zealand.