Living in Rye we are blessed and able to walk and cycle in some of the most beautiful countryside of anywhere in the UK. Whether it’s walking into the Weald (as I recently did on the Rotary Club 10m sponsored walk), cycling across the Marsh to Hythe, or strolling down to the sea and taking in the Rother’s resident seals along the way.
For all its beautiful setting what amazes me is how inhospitable the roads around Rye are to walkers and cyclists. For me they form a barrier around the town that needs to be tackled before you can enjoy the surrounding countryside. Here are five roads/junctions that I loathe the most, and my reasons why:
The cycle along the Military Canal from Hythe is beautiful and idyllic, especially passing giraffes nibbling at trees at the Port Lympne nature reserve. But, following an afternoon ambling around Romney Marsh you are in for a rude awakening at the junction of Military Road and Rye Hill.
Whether it is cycling in from the Marsh or crossing by foot to have a pint at the Globe Inn you have no option but to throw yourself out in front of cars speeding down Rye Hill or speeding over the railway bridge. And speed they do. I dread to think what it must be like to have limited mobility and being forced to cross that junction because there is only a path on one side of the bridge.
A rant about roads in Rye wouldn’t be complete without the second on my list: South Undercliff or better known as the A259. It’s hard to know where to start with this road because it’s such a monster and carries some of the largest lorries you’ll see on UK roads.
My particular beef is where the Ypres Castle steps meet the road. It’s great that you are met at the bottom by a protective barrier to stop yourself from accidentally throwing yourself head first into the traffic but it’s only a tiny slither of pavement and there is absolutely no way of safely crossing the road. To the right you have a blind bend and to the left overgrown foliage so there is no way of telling what is coming either way until you are standing in the road.
As I have an allotment on South Undercliff I am well acquainted with the perils of the A259 and can’t help wonder why there isn’t a crossing point along the entire stretch. From the crossing at the Kettle o’ Fish roundabout to the end of Fishmarket Road there are no pedestrian crossings yet it is so heavily residential.
Number three on my list is a junction I’ve raged about before in Rye News – the junction of New Winchelsea Road and Harbour Road. If you are walking to Rye Harbour, Camber Castle or Winchelsea Beach the footpath, as if by magic, just disappears. You have no option but to walk into a busy junction and just hope that the drivers show you some consideration.
While there are more dangerous crossings in Rye, my number four is the spaghetti junction of Rye – where Wish Ward meets The Mint meets Mermaid Street meets The Strand meets The Deals. I love nothing better than sitting outside The Old Grain Store in the sun drinking a coffee watching the confusing confluence.
On a busy day there are people and cars coming from every direction with no one knowing who has right of way. In some ways that’s good because it stops drivers from speeding but it seems to me like a missed opportunity.
The setting, of shops, cafes and beautiful buildings, has all the potential of being a vibrant town square. As it is it’s a confusing mess with cars parked everywhere – both legally and (in the case pictured) illegally.
Last but not least is Station Approach. As I’ve written before the road acts as a poor and unwelcoming gateway to Rye. I’ve seen countless bemused visitors just off the train and at the junction of Cinque Port Street trying to figure out why two sides of the island triangle has a zebra crossing but not the one they want to cross while the cars, which have been held up at the level crossing, zoom past.
The layout of the road, including that it’s wide and one-way, encourages speeding. It is home to the station, bus stops and Jempsons so must have the highest footfall of any street in Rye but, with narrow and disjointed pavements, it doesn’t feel very pedestrian friendly and plans to upgrade it have been shelved.
What all these have in common is that the needs and safety of pedestrians, in particular those who are not so mobile, just are not considered. I’ve heard endless excuses why crossings can’t be installed on these roads and, laughably, the reason usually given is that it’s not safe for pedestrians.
Some of these, but not all, have been highlighted in the Rye Neighbourhood Plan. The Plan also laudably includes initiatives to encourage more walking and cycling but it begs the question – will that make any difference? It will still be the same local authorities and national bodies in charge of the roads in and around Rye, and it’s they who have done so little so far to make the town pedestrian, and cycle, friendly.
Photos: Kevin McCarthy