Another cloudless day, perhaps the last for some time, saw us heading back into East Sussex and down to Rye, one of the Cinque Ports, for a browse and a bimble.
Rye has pretty streets and a fine hilltop church, St Mary’s, which dates from… well, there’s a list of its Vicars, Rectors and Patrons since 1036. The clock dates from 1561 and is one of the oldest working church tower clocks in the country.
(I’m saving today’s ‘church’ photos for a later slideshow.)
We freed ourselves from the fleshpots of Rye, notably Fletcher’s House Tea Room, for today’s 17 km bimble, which headed first into Rye Harbour Nature Reserve.
The first target was Camber Castle, built in the reign of Henry VIII to protect Rye from the growing threat of French and Spanish invasion. This was one of a chain of south coast defences protecting vulnerable areas. However, shingle soon built up in front of the castle, and after a while its cannon fire would no longer have been able to reach the sea. So it was abandoned in 1637 and now lies a mile inland.
A short walk from the castle is a bird hide that we had all to ourselves today, a day of deserted but well marked paths (as is the norm down here) in bright sunshine. Our brief stop at the hide quickly revealed the following birds:
Mute swan, Coot, Mallard, Black-headed gulls, Tufted duck, Lapwing, Shelduck, Teal, Cormorant, Shoveler, Oyster catchers, Greylag geese, Gadwall, Moorhen, Canada geese, Wood pigeon, Chaffinch, Marsh harrier, Blue tit, and Reed buntings.
Adjourning to a sunny bench for lunch, we added the following to that list:
Carrion crows, Rooks, Blackbird, Robin, Magpie, Kestrel, various sparrows, Blackcap, Heron and Linnet.
And given that we just have a very crappy little pair of binoculars, limited knowledge of bird species and negligible knowledge of their calls, we probably missed many more.
Continuing onwards, we found that Winchelsea proudly announces itself to the world.
It’s a quaint little place, with another big church. At one end of the village the Strand Gate has failed to halt a recent spread of buildings, but in the countryside to the south of the village the ‘New Gate’ was never reached, due to a decline in population following the ‘Black Death’ epidemic. Perhaps the houses will get there during the 21st Century.
After passing through both gates and the intervening village we found ourselves beside the Royal Military Canal. This was built from 1804 to 1809, when Napoleon was threatening to invade. The excavated soil from the 28 mile canal was piled up on the landward side to protect troops from enemy fire. Every 500 metres along the length of the canal a kink (‘enfilade’) was inserted to enable cannons to be fired down each stretch. In practice, the canal was never called upon for defence purposes, but it did help to control the smuggling that was rife on Romney Marsh at that time, albeit subject to the corruption of the authorities that is now practiced in the UK in more subtle ways, but is still commonplace in its more blatant guises across many parts of the world.
The flask was de-dregged at a pleasant spot beside the canal, before a pleasant wander back into Rye and our expensive incorruptible car park.
Here’s today’s route – about 17km with not much more than 100 metres ascent. Given the distractions, it took us all day.