Rye Harbour – peace or chaos?

Beautiful and peaceful Rye Harbour

New year’s day 2022 was, after several days of rain and drab weather, a beautiful day, perfect for a cycle ride to Rye Harbour village. While one would expect more traffic than in the week, I did not expect the chaos that I came across half way down the cycle path from Rye. Cars were parked facing backwards and forwards on the right side of the road right up into the village. This was always the residents’ nightmare until they took over the car park.

The problem seemed to be a large dug-out ditch outside the first few houses which people tried to get round, but cars were coming from the village to get to Rye so a blockage built up there which created chaos right to and from the car park around the corner where the toilets are, eventually creating a queue both ways. This must have been going on for some time as I arrived around 1pm and on returning around 3pm it was no different. In fact I had to walk for quite a bit as cars were trying to get past each other driving on part of the cycle path. One woman was getting very upset as she was trying to get to her caravan and was caught in the traffic build up.

Was it that the car park was full? Probably. Was it the work area? Yes, and of course visitors wanting to go to the beach and the discovery centre. It seemed such chaos that it felt worth checking the Rye Harbour website.

That showed there might have been a fourth reason: “Winter Activity Trail 1.1.22, 10 until 4”, advertised with a map available around the reserve to find out about nature, wildlife and pointing out the available car park.

This was made possible through the Sussex Wildlife Trust / National Lottery. There are several other events happening, one took place on January 2, a walk with the warden on January 9 and many more in later months. After walking for a while through the myriad of cars, cyclists could peacefully continue on the path to get back to Rye.

PS: Being curious I checked out the situation later, on January 2, and all was well, no chaos.

Image Credits: Heidi Foster .


  1. Hi Heidi. I regularly cycle down to the Harbour myself. I’m noticing the cycle path is getting more and more overgrown as grass is being allowed to cover the tarmac on the path. The council cuts the grass and soil back from the road but not from the path. Do you think there’s anything we could do to encourage the council to get the cycle path back to its original size by cutting back the vegetation and soil that has crept over it? Could Rye News help publicise maybe?

    • Danny, nothing to do with Rye Town Council, it’s East Sussex CC who should maintain cycle paths. The cycle path to Rye Harbour is in pretty good condition compared to the quagmire, so called cycle other, between Rye and Dumb Woman’s Lane. I’ve bored readers enough with my whinging about our ESCC Councillor Keith Glazier having no interest in the paths, so don’t expect any change.

  2. I wonder if Rye News could investigate if the Discovery Centre is employing any Rye Harbour locals? It is rumoured that they are not – despite several villagers applying to work in the cafe.

    • Hi there , my understanding is no resident of RH is employed at the visitor Centre.I ( resident)applied for a job there myself and was not hired!

  3. Was it really chaos? We drove there with the dogs mid-afternoon. Yes, there was a lot of people and traffic around, and the carpark was pretty full plus the surrounding areas. But car parking spaces were found as a steady stream of people came and went. What was so nice was that everyone seemed to be in such a jolly mood due to the sun and blue skies, and the abundance of dogs all seemed to enjoy having a sniff and greet. As always with dog walkers there’s a brief chat with new people. Winchelsea beach had a few more people than normal, but it was a delight seeing some had taken picnics. So for the overwhelming majority I suspect they had a rather fabulous New Years Day, and started the year with a big smile feeling blessed to have miles of county walks, nature and beaches so close to where we live, and a lot of happy tail wagging dogs.

    • If you lived on the harbour road and experienced the regular traffic during holidays and weekends, you wouldn’t be feeling so chipper.
      The visitor Centre brings in more visitors but doesn’t provide any extra parking

  4. Where’s the community spirt ? Organise a working party to clear the cycle path. Rye is very community minded after all. I would volunteer but I already do it where I live

  5. Never mind the cycle path, when is something going to be done about the truly appalling state of the road into the village!!

  6. Rye Harbour was not alone in experiencing issues regarding parking and numbers on this particular day – Pett Level, Winchelsea Beach and Camber also saw huge numbers of visitors, so I think it is a much more complex issue than the fact that Rye Harbour Nature Reserve was holding an activity on that date, as implied in the article. With the advent of more people holidaying at home, tourist areas all over the country have been experiencing a huge increase in visitor numbers. I suspect many of those who come to Rye Harbour are not even aware of the Nature Reserve and its activities. Perhaps we should look at the wider picture before we point the finger at any one cause. Other factors such as the rise in the number of all-year-round holiday lets, airbandb etc in the area in response to Pandemic holiday patterns, the fact that many people are having to take holidays outside the the traditional holiday season, the frequent articles in national newspapers promoting Rye Harbour as a wonderful place for a walk, the previous week’s weather making it one of the few guaranteed mud-free walks in the area coupled with the fact that it was the first good weather to tempt people out and a huge ‘free’ car park all contribute to the ‘problem’. Let us not forget that our public health services have been urging people to meet up outside to help reduce the chances of spreading the virus. Just remember that many of us are fortunate enough to live here all year round so we can surely be willing to share on the few days a year when the world and his wife seem to want to come too.

  7. Mr McLaren, it is precisely the “abundance of dogs” that prevents me from enjoying this wonderful rescource that is right on my doorstep. I for one do not wish to be “sniffed and greeted” and more than I want to tread in their mess. It is after all meant to be a nature reserve, not a dogs’ playground or toilet, so I will leave it to dogs and their owners to enjoy, despite my great admiration for the work that everyone does there and the marvellous new Discovery Centre. Woof woof.

    • Dear Margot, how terribly sad that you are offended by the abundance of dogs in Rye and its surroundings. From what I have witnessed the majority of dog owners are responsible people who clean-up after their dogs, so please do not tar us all with the same brush. And I love the fact so many shops and bars and restaurants are dog friendly. The world does not only belong to humans, it belongs to every living creature. I adore that on my land I see squirrels, rabbits, foxes, badgers, pheasants, partridges, etc. I embrace the tolerance and harmony of the people who live in this part of the world who are so welcoming to dogs and enjoy the companionship and pleasure they give to so many. Happy New Year.

      • I think it should be understood that not everyone in the world likes dogs, there’s nothing worse than a dog loose frightening someone which is normally followed by “he won’t hurt you”
        Others like to walk their dogs on a lead but are pestered by loose dogs, I’ve even had people say that if I let my dog off the lead it wouldn’t be frightened.
        There are very few bad dogs but an endless supply of inconsiderate owners.
        A local harbour man once put a sign on the gate by the camp that goes to the beach.
        Dog S*** Alley——->
        Make of that what you may.

        • Well said Tony Edwards.
          One never knows if someone has had a bad experience with a dog in their lives.
          Also not all those who own dogs seem aware that a dog not in a lead is a danger to sheep.
          They think their dog “won’t hurt or worry a sheep”.

  8. The carpark looks like a cash cow for the village to me if they were to ask for donations from drivers. There are boxes to put change in to help pay for the upkeep of the toilets and carpark but I wonder how many contribute.?

    Wouldn’t take much to have a rota of volunteers to cover weekends and bank holidays. Just a thought.

  9. I fully agree with Kevin, the road is an utter disgrace, I truly feel for the residents of the village who have to put up with the road day in day out.

  10. Interesting to know is the road to Rye harbour is up to highways England to maintain, or East Sussex Highways, whoever is responsible is a disgrace, maybe if our representative Keith Glazier is not too busy,he can enlighten us, who is responsible, and why its been neglected for so long.

  11. Great to have all those comments/just to make clear my piece was not a complaint just an observation what a needed nice day means to everyone. I was part of the group pushing for the path/on the whole it seems ok/certainly better than the roads as bad as in Rye. I complained with pictures to Glazier. Was told they were going to come and look at one street which I actually didn’t mention.
    I do feel/while not much power the relevant councillors should put a sensible plan together and push Glazier to adopt it concerning the streets. Not much hope of that I think

  12. Sunday January 8th: Quite a big day for traffic in Rye Harbour – cars parked all around the vehicle turning circle at the end of Harbour Road, cars driving half on the roadway and half on the pavement as they rounded the corner into Harbour Road leaving from the car park. Great stuff. Sunny day, masses of tourists and vehicles, but still somewhat subdued; after all, being winter, the air is still fairly chilly. But just wait…spring and summer are on the way! Time enough for some traffic jams from hell, broken pedestrian pavements, maybe some emergency vehicles that can’t make a turn to get out of the village, etc. Fingers crossed, eh?!

  13. I seem to have touched a raw nerve with Mr McLaren to warrant such a reply to my comment. To be able to watch all those animals that come into his garden in the presence of his dog is amazing!

    I actually like dogs , it’s their owners who seem to feel it necessary to inflict their little darlings on the rest of us that I have trouble with, and as for having them next to me whilst eating – no. I have had several supportive emails regarding Rye Harbour Nature Reserve from other nature lovers that also avoid it for similar reasons.

    Regarding the car park, which apparently is often quite full, a small entry charge could help pay for road repairs and maintenance, perhaps white lines in the car park to keep parking manageable, and a sign at the entry to Mr Edwards delightfully and appropriately named “alley” requesting dog owners to be put on leads?

    There’s a thought – and a happy new year to you too Mr McLaren!

    • Dear Margot, You did not hit a raw nerve at all. I simply request you do not tar all dog owners with the same brush. My dog is not randomly let off the lead. He is not allowed to go sniffing around and running up to humans. And his toilet needs are done on my land where it is picked-up. If all local dog owners were irresponsible we would all be up to our knees in, err .. dog … you know the rest. I don’t want random dogs off their leads running up to me and my dog either in case of attack. I frequently tell dog owners to put their dog on a lead. And I totally agree with the saying ‘there are no bad dogs, only bad owners’. I don’t know if it would make any difference, but I’m in support of DOGS MUST BE KEPT ON LEADS signs and fines. As for “eating next to them” – dog friendly restaurants are in the minority, so you do have plenty of opportunity to avoid them.

  14. Once again, I totally support Margot Dixon’s views, and I also avoid Rye Harbour, due to dogs now even though my son was born there and found the villagers to be most welcoming.

  15. Rye Nature Reserve is still one of my favourite Places especially on my bike! I do a cycle around the area and when homeward bound at one point sitting at the old lifeboat station with my coffee on board looking out to sea it’s so peaceful and nice to also bump into the odd person too for a quick chat too! I do note that when nearing the main path from Rye Harbour depending on the time of day it has got busier but I for one am pleased that people are getting out more and away from computers etc! Yes it was chaos on New Years Day BUT lots of people were off work and and it was the first bright day over the Christmas Period too! I do like dogs BUT I do agree that some owners do NOT pick up after their dogs but we must appreciate that we are living in a society where we tend to accept selfish behaviour – I am NOT just talking about dog owners! Perhaps avoid the busy times when visiting as it is such a wonderful place not to be missed especially the New Centre too!

  16. Having lived in Rye Harbour for the past 38 years Imust say that the many visitors and their dogs are a delight. They keep our businesses afloat and are invariably friendly and interested in the village and people who live here.
    Dogs so often are an invitation to conversation. The only difficulty as I get older is remembering their names. So not only the owners names but dogs and childrens names as well!

  17. I believe two members of the café staff live in Rye Harbour. Also though if anyone wants a job as a Food and Beverage Assistant (part time) the café is recruiting at present and I’m sure would welcome an application from anyone with relevant experience, wherever they live.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here