Route for an easy Sussex walk at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve

PUBLISHED: 10:58 19 March 2019

Sandwich terns (Photo by Barry Yates)

Sandwich terns (Photo by Barry Yates)


We explore the easy paths at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, perfect for a spring walk

A special place

As well as being a valuable habitat for wildlife, this Sussex Wildlife Trust nature reserve is marvellously uplifting and offers easy access. It’s ideal for a new visitor centre, officially opening in 2020, which should frame views of this constantly changing tidal and seasonal landscape and enable visitors to spot birds such as the golden plover and lapwing. The lapwing was once a widespread nesting bird, seen regularly over farmland, but numbers have crashed over the last 50 years.


The beginning of March is heralded by the squawking of gulls as the first winter migrant birds return to set up territories. Keep an eye out for the white rumps of the wheatear and notice the raucous calls of the sandwich tern. Flowers such as the Danish scurvygrass and common whitlow grass start to show: these tiny white flowers look like a sprinkling of frost on the shingle grassland.

Where to refuel

Rye Harbour offers a choice of refreshment stops near the harbour. There are two cafes: the popular Bosun’s Bite and the delightful Avocet Gallery and Tea Rooms.

There are also two traditional pubs: William The Conqueror offers real ales while The Inkerman Arms may offer fresh fish, good beer and craft ciders.


• Location: Rye Harbour

• Distance: 4.5 miles (7.2 km) - 1.5 to two hours to walk. Shortcut is two miles (3.2km)

• Terrain: flat, hard-surfaced or shingle-packed paths.

• Parking: Car park with toilets nearby. SAT NAV to TN31 7TX, turn right into the car park before the Martello Tower.

• Transport: Railway station in Rye and taxi.

• Map: OSExplorer 125

• Dog-friendly: On lead near livestock.

• Further information:

The walk

1 Leave the main entrance of the car park and walk past the Sussex Wildlife Trust sign and along the tarmac path into Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, passing the road barrier. See Rye Harbour across the tidal marsh to your left. Pass the temporary information hut. During 2019 this will be replaced by a new visitor centre on the site of nearby Limekiln Cottage. Pass Gooders Hide on your right, a marvellous place to watch over the Waders’ Pool. The distinctive red-roofed Norton’s Hut is a much-loved landmark followed by a World War II pillbox.

2 Turn right along the tarmac permissive path at the end, passing another distant World War II box. Shingle banks and the sea are on your left. For our shortcut, turn right at the bench by the speed sign and rejoin the main route at Waypoint 6 by walking straight ahead at marker post 3. Otherwise, on your right see the Ternery Pool. Pass some ruins on your left and spy a distant Camber Castle on the far right. Pass Mary Stanford Lifeboat House, named after the tragedy in 1928 when 17 lifeboat crew lost their lives. Reach a stretch of track edged by a rock-filled barrier.

3 Turn right along the shingle path at the zebra crossing by the speed sign and the cement block marked no.6. The path becomes mud on a shingle base and gives good views across the reserve. See some houses over to your left.

4 At the shingle path, turn right away along the permissive pathway. Continue along this hedged track for some time, passing several buildings including The Little House. Keep walking straight ahead on this track. When the bank lowers, enjoy views over water to the left. Pass some corrugated iron and breeze block barns then enjoy more views over water to the left. The path continues through gorse and scrub. Ignore a grassy offshoot path on your right.

5 Turn right at a rough crossroads towards a gate and walk along a mud and shingle track. Ignore the grassy track running left along the fence and keep straight ahead to walk between two bodies of water. Walk around the water on the track as it curves towards the wind farm. Reach a shingle track.

6 Turn left at the shingle track and marker post 3. This scenic path meanders past the water and towards the caravan rooftops. Walk straight ahead along the footpath across the footbridge and on along the grassy bank through Rye Harbour Holiday Park. Turn right at the tarmac drive to follow the foot-path past the Martello tower and back to the car park.


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