In our defence

The crumbling Martello tower at Rye Harbour

When our chains are released and travelling a reasonable distance is allowed once more, a trip to Rye harbour should be top of the list. As you arrive at Rye Harbour car park the first thing that strikes you as being unusual is that parking is free (though donations are requested) and there’s plenty of it, quite a rarity in this day and age. And if that wasn’t enough, there are toilets too.

Adjacent to the car park, encircled with security fencing, is the remains of a 19th century Martello tower, formally an important component in our strategic coastal defence network and part of our rich cultural history, sadly now derelict, and now a safe haven and home to numerous pigeons.

The concrete bunker at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve

Walking past the new nature reserve visitor centre you come across Norton’s Hut, an iconic building, its distinctive corrugated red roof the backdrop to thousands of ‘selfies’ and shortly after, a concrete bunker, a former 20th century gun emplacement keeping watch where the sea meets the mouth of the river Rother. Who would have thought that something so utilitarian and basic in its form and construction could have played such an important part in our past and walking through it you get the feeling of what life might have been like for its former occupants.

Concrete features quite prominently as you reach the sea edge as the sea defences stretch out into the water and its square sections give the appearance of windows as you look through them and along the coastline.

The sea defences with ‘windows’ overlooking the coastline.

The timber groynes are a stark contrast as they zig zag through the shingles, long standing residents which have stood the test of time.

Ancient groynes zig zag their way through the shingle.

Of course, the area is rich with bird life, a superb natural habitat and a safe breeding ground for so many species and, following the tarmac paths throughout the nature reserve, your eye is taken over acres and acres of marshland and if you keep on walking (or cycling) to Pett Level you will then discover the Jurassic Coast, but that’s a story for another day.

Sea defences at Rye Nature Reserve

Image Credits: Nick Forman .


  1. Lovely photos Nick. Barry Yates tells me that the Martello Tower is a home for more than pigeons. It has been a regular home for nesting Great Black-backed Gulls for about 5 years, stoats have been seen inside the moat, the Ivy must be great for insects, and a moss that had only been seen in Germany was found on the bank around it. Good news.


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