The volunteers who help maintain Rye Harbour Nature Reserve were treated to an afternoon’s entertainment in Winchelsea August 30. Of the 60 or so helpers, 37 were given a tour of the Museum and St Thomas’ Church before adjourning for tea and an update on the latest plans for developing the Visitor Centre at Lime Kiln Cottage.
Winchelsea museum is housed in the ancient Court Hall dating back to the 14th century and is a museum in itself. Among the artefacts are the robes of the barons of the Cinque Ports who traditionally attend the monarch’s coronation. Jo Turner, the curator, told me that the silk waistcoat had been allowed to deteriorate over the years, but was now shortly going for repair. Seeking professional advice, she had contacted the textiles department of the Victoria & Albert Museum who had suggested she approach the Royal Institute of Needlework who in turn passed her on to a professional fabric restorer living in Rolvenden, Kent, only a few miles from Rye.
The guide who showed us round St Thomas’ was equally knowledgeable. He brought the building to life with his account of its construction over a short time span between the years 1288-1315. Whether it was finished or the work abandoned at the crossing is still not known. One of three churches in Winchelsea, it was built in what is called the “decorated” style of architecture. It was magnificently endowed as shown by the use of materials, such as Caen stone, Sussex marble, Oxford Blue marble and Winchelsea sandstone. Then the harbour silted up, trade vanished and with it the wealth of its citizens and patrons, paving the way for centuries of neglect, before the resurgence of interest in the Victorian era, when most of the stained glass windows were inserted.
We had earned a welcome cup of tea in the New Hall, where Dr Barry Yates, the Reserve Manager gave an illustrated talk about the Reserve. Two short videos, taken by an overhead drone, gave a bird’s eye view, showing how much of the total land area was now given over to wetland for breding and migrating birds. He gave a power point presentation outlining plans for the new visitor centre to be built on the site of the present Lime Kiln Cottage. These would be open for public consultation in the New Year as part of the planning process.
After thanking all those who contributed in many different ways to the running of the Reserve, Barry Yates paid tribute to Lucy Bowyer, Community Wildlife Officer, who is leaving after seven years. Presented with a bouquet of flowers, she said: “I have never enjoyed a job so much . . . I shall be back”.
photo: Kenneth Bird
Image Credits: Kenneth Bird .