The Great Stink


For 10 days recently there has been something of an agricultural atmosphere around the town and Rye News has received many complaints, questions and suggestions as to who or what was responsible.

It turns out that the farmer responsible, writing on the Rye News Facebook page, confirmed that he has been spreading chicken manure on fields on Rye Marsh (between Rye and Winchelsea). The prevailing wind, at this time of year, being westerly, is the reason that Rye would receive the benefit of the aroma wafting across the landscape.

Waiting to be spread

The farmer’s actions, we understand, are entirely legal and, as he has himself said, fertilising fields in this way is natural, organic and better for both the ground and the environment as a whole than using artificial fertilisers.

Several correspondents to this paper’s Facebook page have commented that as we live in a rural community then we should expect to smell like a rural community – a sentiment echoed by our County Council representative, Keith Glazier. 

The farmer’s admission of responsibility, was published on the Rye News Facebook page on Friday September 1. He said the manure would be “incorporated” in the soil within 24 hours and the smell should dissipate over the next 48 hours. But, on Thursday (as the paper goes to publication) there was still a faint whiff in the Western end of the town. It must also be mentioned that the smell didn’t just start at the time of the very honest admission on Facebook but had, in fact, been around since the beginning of the Bank Holiday weekend

The prime suspects

The town, therefore, has endured the odour for nearly two weeks, to date, rather than just the few days estimated, and this included the busiest weekend of the year with Rye crowded with both residents and visitors for the holiday and the Jazz Festival. One visitor has given their impression of Rye as “a lovely little town, but very smelly” and several B&B owners have contacted us with concerns that this could affect future business.

We have quoted, above, the argument that as we live in a rural community, we should expect this sort of thing. But, others have maintained that responsibility is a two-way affair. Those – like many of our correspondents – who live in the town have a responsibility not to hamper the farmers’ efforts by trampling over their crops, leaving gates open or allowing dogs to worry their animals. Equally, they say, the farmers have a responsibility to those not part of the farming industry to ensure that their activities do not impinge on the rest of the community more than is necessary. In this instance, that would have meant clearing and “incorporating” the contents of chicken sheds after a major holiday weekend and one of great importance to the town’s economy, rather than during it. 

Please note that the pictures shown here are generic, designed to illustrate this article and are not of any specific farm. 


Photos: library images

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  1. The ‘agricultural’ smell at least proves that the crops to be grown are ‘natural’ !

    There is a new development on the beach in Hythe where the residents have complained of the sound of gunfire. – They live next door to the MOD ranges! Here in Rye we live surrounded by farmland. What do you expect!!!!

  2. Well said Sheila,

    I read the comments on the rye news Facebook page and the main complainants seemed to be those connected to Rye News.

    Anyone who knows anything about farming understands that work has to be done when the weather dictates.

    sugestions that the farmer should have waited until after the bank holiday weekend are quite frankly idiotic.

    A simple case of Nimbyism

  3. I was brought up in the Wiltshire countryside in the 1960s and ’70s and never smelt anything like this. But that was perhaps because there were few battery hen farms (roast chicken was a rare and expensive treat) and therefore little or any chicken dung to be spread on the fields. Muck spreading was a rare treat as cow dung has the nose of a fine claret, while chicken poo smells of corked retsina! Hmm, time to crack open a lightly crusted, three-day-matured cow pat!

  4. The farmer in question has probably thicker skin than me by spreading this valuable manure so close to a town, but the reality is there is a very small time frame that manure can be spread.

    Government rules dictate that no poultry manure can be spread from the end of September (earlier on sandy soil) until February, hence the reason Romney Marsh smells like a poultry unit during late August once the wheat crops are harvested and before crops are planted again in September. A big percentage of this manure is now spread at night and immediately cultivated into the soil to alleviate the worse of the smell.

    So by eating chicken and eggs, we have to put up with a small window of smell caused by the by-product of our actions. The reality is that it is a small price to pay so that we can consume food that is vital for life!

  5. I don’t normally comment on articles but feel I must dispute Daniel Carricks claim that most complainents on the Rye News Facebook page were connected to Rye News. As an admin of the Rye News Facebook page I can 100% guarantee there was not 1 comment from anyone connected to or part of the Rye News team.

  6. The smell certainly has affected businesses along the high st.
    We have had to keep all the doors and windows firmly closed and on one occasion lit joss sticks to try to combat the stink.
    I can only imagine how it affected people’s appetites.
    I have also lived in the countryside most of my life but this is something else intirely. If the manure is properly composted BEFORE it is spread then it would not smell like this. Perhaps I might suggest using last years manure instead ?

  7. While farmers have every right to manure their fields when it is appropriate, season and weather-wise, it is perhaps not too much to ask that, if possible, it is not done when the town is jam-packed with tourists. Rye is a popular destination and visitors may well be put off a second visit if their first is blighted by ammoniacal pollution. This year the manure first went down just as the Jazz Festival began, with a number of outdoor concerts. Tourist-dependent businesses are just as important as agricultural ones.

  8. I’d like to re-iterate some perspective to this debate. Through the power of social media I am partly responsible for encouraging the number of complaints about this year’s muck spreading. HOWEVER, my question, rather than complaint, requested an explanation as to why the smell was so much worse than previous years and secondly, why the smell persists for so long. These questions have only been answered in part and the second concerning the length of time only elicited the response that the smell would be gone within approximately 48 hours, clearly this has not been the case. I would also like to point out that the farmer concerned took the trouble to respond directly to me and in a thoroughly respectful and polite manner; the Environmental Health department also acted quickly and responded in a positive manner if not entirely answering the questions. I have been publicly criticised and vilified, ridiculed in the street and understandably upset some of the local farming community through my involvement in this but that I guess is the price you pay for speaking up. I understand that the farmer concerned has been subjected to even worse, unforgivable treatment. It’s now time to put this behind us and move on with mutual respect and understanding of each other


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