Rye Harbour Nature Reserve Bird Blind

Bird Blind at the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve

Guest post by Jamie Rhein

What to do at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve?

Rye Harbour Nature Reserve in England is worth the little more than an hour train trip from London followed by a quick local bus ride.  A friend and I headed to the reserve one afternoon as part of our overnight trip to Rye. Rye, a 14th century medieval era town, is a splendid getaway location, and the trip to the reserve a fabulous bonus.

What a contrast to London’s bustle, and even Rye’s slower pace. The Rye Harbour Nature Reserve is 1,109 acres of salt march, saline lagoons, reed beds, freshwater gravel pits and coastal grazing marsh land bordered by the Rother River and the sea.

Rye Harbour Nature Reserve Entrance

Sussex Wildlife Trust for birders and walkers

The 280 bird species that have been sighted here, as well as, the wealth of flora including wild flowers are part of the draw. As a property of the Sussex Wildlife Trust, the reserve is safeguarded from development and is user friendly. A paved walking path reaches from the Rye Harbour Nature Preserve entrance to the rocky beach of the sea.

During our visit, we saw a few older couples, some who pushed a companion in a wheelchair. I thought about what a pleasant afternoon we all were having during the misty afternoon.

Rye Harbour Nature Reserve Wildflowers

Along the way several points of interest and a small visitors center caught our attention. We found mini history lessons in the midst of the quiet beauty.

pill box bunker

A pill box bunker

This slice of England was part of the Norman Invasion on the East Sussex Coast and where Henry XIII built the artillery fort Camber Castle. Also, during the 19th century, the British Empire built Martello Towers as defensive forts. Then, during WWII, pill boxes were built to house Vickers machine guns.

Martello Tower

Martello Tower

A Martello Tower is near the reserve entrance, and four pill boxes are part of the reserve’s things to see. We took time exploring both the pill boxes and the tower but did not have time to head to Camber Castle. Also, Camber Castle, an English Heritage site is only accessible by guided tours and we hadn’t planned ahead for that.

Julian Hanshaw comic art

Artwork by Julian Hanshaw

The WWII pill boxes included sociological, thought-provoking, contemporary art. What a terrific idea. I love when art is added to buildings and structures as a commentary. This comic book art by Julian Hanshaw is particularly alluring.  Julian Hanshaw is an award-winning graphic novelist who has gained kudos through the LA Times, BAFTA, and the British Comic Awards.

Rye Harbour Reserve ice-cream truck

Ice Cream by the Sea at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve

Other highlights of this outing were buying ice cream from an ice-cream truck stand, and wading in the sea. The ice cream was delicious and the sea superb.

rye ocean

The day we visited, the water was perfectly calm. In the distance, we could see Camber Sands, a beach where people go to swim during the summer, and in the other, the horizon.

Rye Harbour Visitor Center

After we stopped at the visitor center we chatted with the volunteer who was manning the place. From there, we hit up William the Conqueror Pub in Rye Harbour. Since we were there when the kitchen wasn’t open, I settled for a pint of beer and a bag of chips.

Rye Harbour is what one hopes a small village in England would be. Sweet cottages festooned with flowers,  weathered boats, and a laid-back vibe.