Lottery helps Wildlife Trust


Sussex Wildlife Trust has received a grant of over half a million pounds from The National Lottery Heritage Fund for its Discover Rye Harbour project which will transform the way visitors engage with the natural and cultural heritage of Rye Harbour Nature Reserve.

Made possible by National Lottery players, the grant of £588,100 over 39 months will coincide with the nature reserve celebrating its 50th anniversary and will include an exciting and innovative programme of activities, education, training and conservation projects.


The 1,110-acre reserve is one of the most biodiverse places in Britain with 4,200 plant and animal species recorded, and over 200 rare or endangered birds and mammals. It also hosts a range of historic buildings.

As well as engaging more annual visitors in this exceptional natural and human heritage area through exciting interpretation, the project will attract new visitors to visit the nature reserve. Supported by an extensive volunteer development programme, it will also boost the reserve’s conservation capabilities, improving habitats for endangered species and securing a more sustainable future for the reserve.

The Discovery Centre, which is currently under construction, will be Sussex Wildlife Trust’s first visitor centre and has been generously supported by The Friends of Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, the local community and a range of funders.

Tor Lawrence, Chief Executive Officer at Sussex Wildlife Trust said,

‘We are delighted to win this substantial grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund which will enhance everyone’s experience when they visit our new Discovery Centre.

‘We are thrilled that so many people will benefit from knowing more about the important wildlife to be found at the nature reserve. Thank you to National Lottery players for their support and we hope they will visit when the Centre opens in 2020.’

Stuart Hobley, Area Director London & South at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “Rye Harbour is full of fantastic heritage, from a Grade I Listed castle to hundreds of rare and endangered species. This project will enable more people than ever to discover that heritage, as well as securing a bright future for the reserve.

“This comes at an especially exciting time as the nature reserve gets ready to mark its 50th anniversary and the opening of its Discovery Centre. We’re also celebrating 25 years of the National Lottery which has seen £7.9 billion raised for the UK’s heritage, I’m delighted that Rye Harbour is part of that incredible funding story.”

Kenneth Bird writes:

News of the National Lottery Heritage Fund grant was hinted at but could not be released when some 35 Nature Reserve volunteers were regaled with afternoon tea and cakes in the council chamber at Rye Town Hall last Monday. Barry Yates, Reserve Warden thanked them and enthused them with the prospect of helping in the new Discovery Centre when it opens next year.

Alexis Pym, volunteer liaison officer for Sussex Wildlife Trust, promised newly designed eco-friendly uniforms for volunteers and staff, including tee shirts and a variety of head wear ranging from baseball caps to beanies. Noting the mildest signs of rebellion in the ranks of elderly volunteers, she hastened to add that hats were optional.

The Discovery Centre set to open next year

The building itself is nearing external completion with solar roof panels soon to be installed, and chestnut cladding (sourced from Maplehurst Wood, near Hastings) to be fitted to the walls, said Barry Yates.

Funding the new development proceeds apace, with a host of fund-raising initiatives being taken up in the community. One remarkable collaboration was the making of a patchwork quilt depicting wildlife and local landmarks to celebrate 50 years of the Reserve which falls next year in 2020  The quilt will be on display at Bridge Point this coming weekend, Saturday and Sunday, October 12 and 13, 10am to 3pm.

You can view the quilt for free (£3 to see the Hastings tapestry.) Raffle tickets will be available.

The quilt forms the principal prize in the raffle for which tickets are also available at the Rye Heritage Centre on the Strand and at Ethel Loves Me on the corner of the High Street and East Street.

After tea and the completion (or not) of a quiz about aspects of the Nature Reserve, volunteers enjoyed a tour of the Town Hall, conducted by Paul Goring, the Town Crier.

Image Credits: Barry Yates , Emma Chaplin .

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  1. I thought birds needed quiet sites to nest with undisturbed habitats.
    This is an expensive place for people to park their bikes and pushchairs. I have heard it said that some people think “volunteering” a modern form of slavery. I do hope the project has factored in funds to pay people to run the completed project. No doubt this is common practise with all lottery funded projects. In my opinion the money would have been better invested in “”
    which builds sewage systems in developing countries. It’s what she calls a “sh it business “. Perhaps by using her “ low tech drainage
    system “this might have reduced the cost of your building project and furthered her good work abroad.
    Let’s hope the birds appreciate the disruption to their environment .

  2. Am I mistaken but last time I visited Rye Harbour, it was free to park; which to my mind is not expensive! (A donation is welcome) The fenced in reserve is over 1,000 acres in area, plus a large public beach, which can accommodate a few thousand people. The well defined footpaths crisscross the reserve, providing hours of walking exercise and the opportunity to stop and visit one of the hides to study the seasonal wildlife in comfort. I like thousands of other people that visit the reserve truly welcome a watering hole that serves tea, coffee, cakes and lemonade and most importantly a place to learn about what wildlife can be seen on the reserve.

  3. As john wylie points out,thousands of people are visiting this reserve, what a pity East Sussex County Council didnt keep to their promise, in improving the dangerous T junction at the top of the harbour road, just like the supermarket fiasco,we have been let down once again by the County Council, its seems Nature reserve comes first, and the safety of pedestrians, second.

  4. With a new complex costing an obscene amount of money, the prediction of thousands of more visitors and free parking it appears as though the bird reserve has it made.
    I bet the locals can’t wait.

  5. Has any reader ever known a building of this size and magnificence ever survive on volunteers and contributions? Not in a million years. Wedding venue anyone?


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