The piece of sculpture pictured was installed last Friday, August 27 at the entrance to the pumping station at the foot of Cadborough Cliff. Approached from Udimore Road, it is all but invisible until one passes by the stout metal gates owned by the water board. It marks the beginning and end of the 1066 country walkway to and from Pevensey, 31 miles away.
The wooden sculpture is one of some 100 infrastructure pieces being installed (including bespoke site specific sculpture, interpretation panels, directional posts and finger posts) along the walkway, each post symbolic of a historical theme associated with its location.
The one at Winchelsea for example, is said to represent a point from which Duke William of Normandy’s fleet could be seen approaching Pevensey Levels. The Rye post was inspired, according to the sculptor Keith Pettit, by an image of trees featured in the Bayeux tapestry. Keith Pettit was commissioned by Rother District Council (RDC) and created it at his workshop in East Hoathly near Lewes, using a chainsaw for carving from the natural wood.
RDC applied for, and successfully obtained, in excess of £160,000 funding from the EU to improve and promote the rural economy. The pathway had been in existence for many years previously but remained “a hidden gem” in the words of lead cabinet member for culture and tourism, Councillor Earl-Williams. In addition to the marker posts and signage, there are publicity leaflets to be made available at Rye rail station and the heritage centre on the Strand.
The walk includes visits to historical sites through ancient towns and villages, over hillsides and through woodland, and passing oast houses and windmills. It includes the Normans’ landing point at Pevensey and the battle site, and the castles at Pevensey and Herstmonceux. It crosses Pevensey Levels to Herstmonceux Castle and then skirts Wartling Wood to Boreham Street. It then turns eastwards and visits Catsfield and Battle before heading to Westfield, Icklesham and Winchelsea then finishing in Rye.
Opinions will vary as to the marker post’s artistic merit. Alongside the war memorial in St Mary’s churchyard and the millennium wall at the Strand, this represents only the third example of public art in the whole of Rye. They are each one loaded with symbolic allusion to times past.
There are arguments, too, about its location. Strong representations were made by the Rye Conservation Society and others to the effect that the pathway should end in a more publicly accessible place such as the rail station or heritage centre. Then there is the question of the much needed maintenance of the pathway since none of the project funding goes towards the condition of the surface, and responsibility for this remains with East Sussex County Council.
To conclude on a note of early optimism, Councillor Earl-Williams commented: “I am so looking forward to seeing this project as it develops […] it promises to be a fantastic addition to the wonderful tourist attractions we already have in this part of the world and I hope people will flock here to walk it. A warm welcome awaits.”
Meanwhile, the marker post stands like a totem pole against a countryside background, to be admired or ignored by the regular dog-walkers who customarily use this path.
Image Credits: Kenneth Bird , Courtesy of Rother District Council .