A stroll to Camber Castle at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve
Over hundreds of years the sea has deposited shingle at Rye Harbour producing a unique landscape so valuable for wildlife. As the shingle has built up in great ridges, the shoreline has moved creating a variety of habitats.
Camber Castle sits within Rye Harbour Nature Reserve. You may well have spotted it sitting all alone amongst fields whilst driving along the A259 between Rye and Winchelsea. Well, the good news is the castle can be attacked by footpath from the south via Jenny Lane, Winchelsea Beach or from the north, via Harbour Road, Rye. Built by Henry VIII in 1539 to protect the coast around Rye from French invasion, local sandstone, wood and limestone were used in its completion. It then housed a garrison of 42 men. The castle was abandoned in 1627 since when new shingle ridges built up in front of it reducing access to the sea.
These days the castle is managed by English Heritage and the Sussex Wildlife Trust. We’re told that Camber Castle is open to the public on the first Saturday of the month between July and September at 2pm for a guided tour.
The shingle ridges around Camber Castle are 500 years old and are now covered by a flower-rich grassland, which in the spring flourishes with many flowers such as orchids and vetches. In summer marsh frogs sing loudly in the ditches while dragonflies hover overhead.
In late summer whimbrel, on their way back south from their Arctic breeding grounds, feed amongst the shingle ridges. In the autumn, flocks of golden plover and lapwing gather over the pastures, while in winter bittern and ducks such as gadwall, shoveler and wigeon feed in the pools.
It’s advisable to wear stout footwear as it can be wet and muddy in several places and you’ll share your walk with both sheep and cows. You can extend your day nicely by taking in the circular walks around Rye Harbour Nature Reserve where a fabulous new visitor centre is due for completion in 2021.
By Stefano Morrelli, founder of Ride of the Ruperts. Top photo by Sam Cowling, other photos by Morrelli.