Visiting Rye Harbour Nature Reserve
Rye Harbour Nature Reserve is a fascinating place to visit at any time of the year. As a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest there is an abundance of habitats and wildlife to explore including many rare and endangered species. Here are some of the things to do there.
Just walking around Rye Harbour Nature Reserve is a delight; there are so many things to see and places to explore. You can choose to join one of the many guided walks or find your own way round. Served by many easy footpaths along with several long distance walks for the more serious hiker; the Rye Bay Countryside is perfect walking territory.
As the terrain is mostly flat, cycling around the reserve is easy. If you are a serious cyclist you can reach the reserve using one of the National Cycle Network trails that serve the area; alternatively, you can hire a cycle in Rye.
Rye Harbour is an excellent place for observing bird life. Following a successful conservation programme there are now thriving colonies of ground-nesting birds, and you can easily spot terns, lapwing, ringed plover, redshank and other species. In fact, at least 90 species of birds have nested in the reserve and around 200 additional species have been recorded there.
The reserve boasts several excellent viewing hides. The best places for viewing ducks, waders and breeding seabirds are the John Gooders, Guy Crittall, Steve Denny and Ray Parkes hides, all of which are less than a mile from the information centre. The Ken Halpin Hide by Camber Castle provides great views of bitterns, cormorants, marsh harriers along with many species of ducks and geese.
If you are visiting in late summer or early autumn, the reserve is an excellent place to view migrating birds, and in the winter you will find many different species of waders and wildfowl taking advantage of the sanctuary the reserve provides.
Plants and flowers
During May and June flowering yellow horned-poppy, sea campion, viper’s bugloss, sea pea, sea kale along with numerous other species create a breathtakingly colourful display across the shingle. You will also find an abundance intertidal saltmarsh plant life along the river’s edge along with aquatic pond life in the dykes and gravel pits. Many of the plants are rare and endangered species, including the stinking hawksbeard and least lettuce. Altogether more than 450 species of flora have been recorded there.
The animal life in the reserve is considered to be of national importance. Around 2,300 species of invertebrates have been recorded, over 200 of which are classified as notable species, and 56 are “red data book” species.
And of course you can’t miss the marsh frog; dominating the Romney Marshes you will hear its noisy croak throughout the summer months. You will also find badgers and foxes along with various species of bat. From September to March, Herdwick Sheep graze the land as part of the conservation scheme.
Camber castle was once an artillery fort built by Henry VIII to guard the port of Rye and provide a safe haven for the fleet. If you are visiting on the first Saturday of July, August or September, then you can join a guided walk that takes in the castle along with a local farm. You can visit the outside of the castle any time, but the guided walk is the only opportunity to visit the inside.
Several of the walks are accessible by wheelchair, including the short circular walk and the beach reserve which is served by a long tarmac road. All the hides mentioned above are also accessible, though the Ken Halpin Hide is accessible only in dry weather.
Where to stay during your visit
While there are many places you might choose to stay for your visit, we sincerely hope that you choose to stay at the Rye Lodge Hotel. It really is the perfect base for visiting Rye and the surrounding countryside, and especially the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve. With a spa pool, champagne bar and comfortable rooms, we are a dog-friendly hotel too, so if you are thinking of taking your dog to the reserve, then it’s a doubly perfect solution.