Coastal path thwarted

The gap at Rye in the proposed England Coast Path

Natural England has launched its consultation on the stretch of Coast Path from Eastbourne to Camber – but curiously this does not include the option of passing through Rye.

The England Coast Path billed itself as “the longest managed and waymarked coastal path in the world” and was to act as an uninterrupted national trail around all of England’s coast but the dangerous junction at the A259 and Rye Harbour Road proved too much for them and they conclude that “there is no safe road crossing point for pedestrians into Rye.”

Proposed Eastbourne to Camber coastal path avoiding Rye

Natural England went on to say, “We have investigated ways to improve the road crossing point here, including providing a traffic island at the road junction, a pedestrian crossing over the A259 or by creating a pavement on the east side of Harbour Road to the junction.

“We have looked at other options to avoid this road junction, such as crossing Harbour Road further south and then crossing over the Environment Agency Sluice. Unfortunately none of these options are possible.”

The planners recognise that there is a long standing and strong desire for a walked route around the River Rother via Rye but, because they are unable to make the crossing safe, it makes a continuous estuary route around the Rother “a complex and potentially prohibitively expensive undertaking that could not be achieved within the current timescale of the national England Coast Path Programme.”

Kent and Sussex section of the proposed England Coast Path

It remains their aspiration to create an uninterrupted walking route from Eastbourne to Camber and they mention “ongoing discussions regarding the creation of a footbridge across the river.

“If such a development came to pass, or if the junction was made safe for pedestrians, we would investigate whether an estuary route is viable and, if appropriate, would prepare a separate variation report to the Secretary of State.”

It is unclear who has proposed the footbridge, or where it would be constructed, apart from the suggestion that a “local developer has an aspiration to construct a footbridge over the River Brede to the south of Rye.”

Rye News has reported on the dangerous junction previously, where the Rye Harbour Road, which is managed by East Sussex Highways, connects with the A259, which is the responsibility of Highways England.

There are further concerns with the additional traffic that the new Discovery Centre will generate at the junction when it opens later this year. Rye Harbour Nature Reserve estimate that 360,000 people will visit each year, which is an increase of 66% since 2001, and the vast majority will visit by car.

Artist’s impression of the new Discovery Centre

Rye Harbour Nature Reserve appreciates that at peak times there are too many cars for the parking spaces available and is working with the Sussex Community Rail Partnership to promote visiting by others means, such as by rail and walking, on their website and in their literature.

But one must ask if that is wise when visitors arriving at Rye station and travelling to the Discovery Centre on foot must cross a junction that has been deemed unsafe.

There is a further question as to why Rother District Council approved the planning application for the Discovery Centre, knowing that it is likely to increase visitor numbers, and why it did not stipulate that a safe crossing is created.

In a further knock-back for a continuous Coast Path around England, the path along the east side of the River Rother, which runs alongside the Rye Golf Club, will not be included in the England Coast Path.

The report says that Rye Golf Club is concerned that if the existing path is linked with the Coast Path there “might be an increase in the number of walkers between Rye and Camber that might disrupt play and affect their management of the golf course, resulting in potential loss of income.”

The access gate for the pathway across the golf course to Camber

Walking around Rye and the Rother estuary should be a highlight of any England Coast Path, however it seems the town’s on-going transport problems will result in a significant gap in Natural England’s plans.

Natural England is currently contacting landowners to discuss how coastal access rights might work on the land they own. You can read the full report that contains detailed maps here.

There is an eight week period for people to comment on their proposals. Comments can be submitted online here. Representations and objections must reach Natural England by midnight, Thursday April 23.

Image Credits: Natural England , Rye Harbour Nature Reserve , Kenneth Bird .


  1. It was interesting to read about the proposed coastal route from Eastbourne to Camber, and Natural Englands concern over walkers on that route regarding Rye, saying there is not a safe route crossing the harbour road, with its junction with the A259, thanks to the inept East Sussex county council, and Rother district council, who reneged on their promise, by saying no more major development at Rye harbour until the junction was improved, its disgraceful they allowed the large expansion at Rye harbour nature reserve, knowing traffic would increase 10 fold,without addressing this problem first, but as we have seen residents in New winchelsea road, who have to cross this dangerous junction daily come second, and the visitors come first,talk about double standards,from people who talk big but fail to deliver.

  2. Interesting comment by John Tolhurst and I completely agree. This crossing is incredibly dangerous but the only way cyclists and pedestrians can get to Rye Harbour – improvements desperately needed …

  3. The developments in Rye Harbour Road which have increased local employment have created a great deal of extra traffic. The crossing at the top of the road is increasingly dangerous. Please could there be traffic lights? This seems a sensible cheap option! Parking on the LHS on the top of the road means even trafic emergong on to the A259 take their life into their hands as the tfaffic swinging down the A259 travels fast making a crash difficult to avoid. Also the applications for free travel on buses for schoolchildren were turned down as the distance betwen Rye Harbour and the schools was deemed walkable. Parents were of course not wanting their children to cross on foot or to cycle across!

  4. ” Rye Harbour Nature Reserve estimate that 360,000 people will visit each year, which is an increase of 66% since 2001, and the vast majority will visit by car”. But who cares about the residents of Rye Harbour? The road is bottle-necked even now. John Tolhurst is correct when he says the visitors come first.

  5. Decades ago, when industrial development of the Rye Harbour Road started to increase, ESCC promised that the junction would be improved.
    This never happened despite the enormous increase in traffic. Last year ESCC highways sold the patch of land at the top of the Harbour Road that would have enabled this improvement so now it cannot happen, once again profit before people.

  6. Why am I not surprised Rye Golf Club object to the path running by or through their claimed territory.
    With a little thought and maybe a few quid invested, the path could easily be routed around the short parts of the golf course it might just impact. The fact is the Golf Course have always objected to public access despite there being public rights of way crossing it or running close to it.
    Do yourselves a favour and hit the embedded links in the above article and voice your opinions before the cutoff date.
    [NOTE: This comment has been edited to meet our guideines]

  7. Thats not quite the case Yvonne, East Sussex highways i believe can compulsory purchase land on both sides of the harbour junction, and by doing that would need minimal land to improve the junction.

  8. I agree with John Tolhurst about the junction on the A259 but appears ESCC have stopped free school bus service to Rye because it’s within walking distance and a safe path (cycle path )gives access.
    So the A259 is safe to cross by schoolchildren then?

  9. John Tolhurst is right when he says the residents of New Winchelsea Road come second when it comes to safely crossing this junction.
    We are all encouraged to walk rather than use our cars and we regularly walk into Rye from our house, taking our life into our own hands crossing here each day. I was advised by an official from East Sussex county Council and Highways England that someone would have to be killed before action was taken to make this junction safe for pedestrians.
    Some drivers beckon us to cross which is kind of them but a very dangerous manoeuvre for pedestrians. I now turn my back to all traffic so they cannot make eye contact and wait until I can’t see a vehicle in sight before I cross.
    I was saying only yesterday after ten minutes waiting to cross that only drivers have rights to use this junction. Us pedestrians have no rights whatsoever.


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