“GO HOME” message goes, but ….

A temporary notice opposite the closed car park at Rye Harbour

The UK government’s latest advice is that you can “spend time outdoors – for example sitting and enjoying the fresh air, picnicking, or sunbathing” with no set limit on the distance you can drive.

This has not only been rejected by the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, but in addition residents of Rye Harbour also put out their own message (since removed), saying ‘The car park is closed for a reason. We are self isolating as a small village, respect us and GO HOME’

A closed Rye Harbour car park did not deter drivers

The car park at Rye Harbour, which is managed by Icklesham Parish Council, has now reopened, but its closure did not deter drivers as the roads around the village and down towards the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve became increasingly clogged with parked cars.

Rother District Council (RDC) had asked that people do not  travel to visit local beaches and earlier in the week, RDC released a statement saying: “With relaxed Covid-19 guidelines and warm weather it’s tempting to rush to the beach for a day out, we urge you not to. There is no lifeguard service and if our beaches become busy it will be impossible to social distance. Don’t take unnecessary risks – help us protect you.”

Rye Harbour however was busier on Wednesday than it has been recently – but not as much as it is on a normal Sunday pre-lockdown. Numbers had increased however both round the nature reserve and along Winchelsea Beach.

[Editor’s note : Rother’s advice however appeared to be totally ignored, as BBC South East reported, in Camber Sands on Wednesday (possibly the hottest day of the year so far) as the village and its approach roads became as packed, as they often do on a typical bank holiday, and the police struggled to maintain control – let alone social distancing]

And the view from Rye Harbour on Wednesday suggested the beach at Camber Sands was very crowded in comparison with the nature reserve and Winchelsea Beach.

Image Credits: Kevin McCarthy .


  1. When and by what means did Icklesham Parish Council / Rother District Council consult Rye Harbour residents about opening the car park? Do residents of such a small village have any rights to decide the level of risk to health and wellbeing they will accept in this time of serious pandemic?

  2. I agree with Diane comments, many people living in the area, Rye Peasmarsh etc have visited Rye Harbour for years including making contributions to the new bird sanctuary. The last time I was there the carpark was closed and I parked my car alongside the car park fencing. When I returned there a number of deliberate scratches on my car and almost all of the other cars parked. Councils must share the blame for this behaviour for closing the park, in the past twenty years of going to Rye Harbour I have never seen the car park more then 30% utilised. The area is perfect for social distancing.

  3. In the words of one local “hopefully, now the car park is open all the idiots will be parked in one place and not all over the village”
    I’m a bit surprised by James’s comment about the car park only ever being 30% utilised, I’ve seen it full on many occasions.
    Even at the height of the lock down neither the bird reserve or the environment agency made any effort to discourage the use of their land and once the new building is finished it will only get worse.

  4. Just to clarify my comments: I would argue that the car park should only be opened to the public with the democratically considered consent of local residents. The main path that seems to be used by casual visitors is the asphalt one. It can get very crowded on a busy day and I for one have little confidence that all people will be distancing at least 6 ft apart; once the visitor centre is opened, surely this will get much worse. Camber car parks are closed. Why? People on a beach that is clearly a much, much larger open space than the narrow Rye Harbour bird reserve etc. can’t be trusted to distance themselves!! It is totally realistic that Harbour residents demand the closure of the car park. Immediately. It may not be full of cars yet but, in non- pandemic times, good weather weekends usually see it rammed full, not 30% full. Parking then extends to all over the village. Residents have the right to be safe in their own village and immediate area. The pathways to the shore and reserve are where Rye Harbour folk take their exercise daily. These spaces should remain as safe as possible and this means less nor more people on them.

  5. The long running saga at Rye harbour, some will say have 3 suspects in the dock, Rother district council, the bird sanctuary and the environment agency, the agency could have locked the gates to the sanctuary, and only opened it in an emergency, those in charge of the bird sanctuary should have shown common sense, and stated it was closed until after lockdown, instead of passing the buck,saying the agency are to blame,for not closing the road, as for Rother opening the car park, and not the toilets, i and many others find them guilty, of their Stupidity.

  6. Thanks a lot for this information. The buck has come to a screeching halt on the doorsteps of with Rye Harbour villagers. I suggest that these very villagers, who are far from stupid, should be the ones to have the ultimate say-so about a matter that is of great concern. Indeed, one might argue that it is a matter of life and death. I could very well be wrong, but I am guessing that most of the decision-makers do not live in Rye Harbour. Please correct if wrong. But regardless of that, they must be accountable to the public [especially the folks of Rye Harbour] for their decisions.

    My really serious question is whether or not these people consulted / polled / canvassed villagers about the decision to open the car park. When and how did they do it? If they didn’t [and I aware of no evidence that this was done], why not? What do villagers feel safe and happy with?

    We have individuals, then, of Rother District Council, the bird sanctuary [Sussex Wildlife Trust?], and the Environment Agency who should be accountable. Do any of these organisations have some sort of ‘duty of care’ or even a moral obligation to act in a way that benefits the safety, health, and well-being of the village with which they have such close relations?

    Why are Camber car parks closed, a significant action to help safeguard people there during the lock-down? Do the residents of Rye Harbour not deserve the same consideration? The answer is surely ‘YES’.

    Villagers should not be left with no alternative but to fashion home-made road signs to try and convey that fact publicly that they are worried, determined to stay safe, and do not want an influx of tourists pouring in just now.

    It is time for the agencies concerned to stop passing the buck, step up and take action to help safeguard the good people of Rye Harbour: close the car park. Not only that, but how about finding a reasonable way to stop random tourist parking all over the village, a persistent, long-term aggravation and road hazard. This could be a perfect time to tackle that menace, too.


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