Rye Harbour – nature, walks and lovely cakes!

I’ve never done a proper post about Rye Harbour. It is one of our favourite places – so open, with amazing views of skies and water. 

Rye Harbour – space…..

     Saturday was a sunny, crisp day – the nicest day since I emerged from the Conquest, so off we went. I felt a real need for emptiness and wide horizons.
     When we first moved to Hastings I very much wanted to visit Rye Harbour, because I loved the pony books set in the village, written by Monica Edwards, who spent her childhood there. The books combined all the curry combs, snaffles, pasterns and throat lashes a girl could wish for with rattling good adventures about smugglers, ghosts, wild times at sea, and even, as the characters grew older – boys.

‘Wish for a Pony’, the first book in the Romney Marsh series by Monica Edwards. I had this edition – and oh, how much I also wished for a pony….

       Monica Edwards’ father was Vicar of Rye Harbour, renamed Westling in the books, and the locations are all very recognisable. The vicarage where she lived is now a B and B, the village stores are still there, but unfortunately there is now no ferry across the river.
       Interestingly, it was Monica’s father who conducted the mass funeral of the victims of the notorious Mary Stanford Lifeboat Disaster in 1928, when seventeen men died, virtually the whole male population of the village of Rye Harbour. Monica incorporated the disaster into one of her novels, ‘Storm Ahead’. The isolated old Lifeboat House, now disused, is still a very visible landmark on the marsh.

Memorial to the men who died in the Mary Stanford disaster, Rye Harbour
The Mary Stanford Lifeboat House, far away in the distance.

      Just to digress once more, the ‘Priscilla McBean’, the sister boat of the Mary Stanford, has just been restored and stands in a new dry dock beside the Old London Road, Hastings.
      However, back to Rye Harbour. We have walked there at all times of year and in all weathers. Much of the marsh area is now a nature reserve, and there are hides where you can peer out at the birds on the various pools. Philosopher and I are hopeless. ‘What’s that bird,’ we politely ask the enthusiasts, and promptly forget as soon as they have told us….
      However, one day we did see a seal at the mouth of the river. It is  also interesting to watch the gulls fly above the tarmac path with mussels, then drop them to break the shells.
      In addition to the nature, the changes in the tides are amazing – sometimes the river is just a muddy trickle, sometimes a wide torrent that laps the edge of the footpath. Then there’s the beach, and the sea.
      We combine walking with visits to the Avocet Gallery and Tearooms in the village. Battleaxe has mentioned this place before, but Peter and Morgan who keep the gallery are very pleasant, they have lovely things to look at and for sale, and the cakes are just to die for – especially the upside-down cakes.
      Peter Greenhalf is a photographer and his brother Robert does woodcuts of  birds and other nature.
      We have taken many, many photographs during our visits, here are some of my favourites.

Storm brewing above the hut
Hut at high water
Sunny morning by the old wharf
Looking down the channel to the sea
Beach at low tide
Lichen and blossom

  And finally, a couple of paintings, similar views to some of the above:

Looking down the channel with Eric Ravillious
Karl Terry – looking up towards Rye



  1. Susan
    July 29, 2023 / 5:13 am

    Thank you for this post about Rye Harbour and Monica Edwards’ books.

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