What a special place Rye is


Rye is well known to attract tourists like moths around a flame.

 Much of the time, while their income is welcome, the physical difficulties that accompany this influx of trade, the traffic jams, and crowded streets and beaches, means the presence of ‘Grockles’ is not.

 But you can’t have the benefits of one without the disadvantages of the other, and Rye residents have to accept it and live with it.

 This week, Rye News received a letter from a visitor who declares in no uncertain terms, the affection he holds for our town. The letter came from far away, San Francisco to be exact. And it carried a plea for the resumption of events not witnessed in Rye since pre-COVID.

 It is a letter full of love and appreciation. For Rye the town, and those who live here. Everyone should read this letter, feel the sentiments expressed, and appreciate how lucky they are to live somewhere that attracts such love and affection from not just a local and regional audience, but a global one as well.

 Rob Schmidt’s letter is printed below. Let’s look forward to welcoming all our visitors in 2022.

 ‘My wife Claudia and I, live just across the bay from San Francisco, California, but our hearts dwell on the streets and alleyways of Rye.

We have visited Rye every December since 2015 with the exception of last year, for obvious reasons.

Four years ago, an unexpected change of schedule put us in Rye during the Christmas Festival. Normally we arrive later in December, or earlier in November. We were simply amazed by the obvious hard work done by the volunteers who organise this event. So many small details. So much fun. We hung out of our window above the Standard Inn as a parade of good cheer passed below us, children and adults waving to us, all laughing and smiling. That night is indelibly inscribed on our hearts.

Rob and Claudia Schmidt

Saddened by the cancellation of last year’s festival, and with the fire which put the George out of commission, we wondered if our favourite spot on the planet could withstand the waves of restriction associated with the COVID pandemic. But if we have learned anything, we have learned that it is foolish indeed, to underestimate the resilience of the people of Rye. And so, each Friday, we look forward with great anticipation for the latest edition of the Rye News, which provides us with weekly confirmation of Dr. Jonas Salk’s observation that ‘there is hope in dreams, imagination, and in the courage of those who wish to make those dreams a reality.’

We look forward to emerging from the train station and finding Rye as we remember it in our fond memories, slightly changed and yet, unchanged, as living, vital things are inclined to be.

The photo below captures the essence of the festival for us. It shows Haley Ford and her family. Haley was part of the organizing team for previous festivals and helped me navigate the mysteries of international fund transfers so we could contribute financially to the festival. We were stunned to learn that she and her husband Andrew, ran two clothing shops on the High Street. They welcomed a new baby just weeks before the 2019 festival and still committed to volunteering with the production and co-ordination of the day’s events. Look at those smiles! This photo radiates the warmth that we encountered in every shop and pub. What a special place Rye is.

Andrew and Haley Ford with their newborn during the 2019 Christmas Festival

We have decided to take a chance and have booked accommodation and flights for the first week in December where traditionally, the festival should be scheduled.

We look forward with giddy anticipation to the announcement that there will be a Christmas Festival in December 2022, and that the ‘courage of those who make dreams a reality’ will once again be successful, rallying the resources to present such a fine event as in years past.

Sincere and Joyous Regards,

Rob and Claudia Schmidt



The Rye News team pledges to support and promote all efforts to produce a joyous and successful Christmas Festival in 2022.

Chris Lawson – Editor

Image Credits: San Francisco Travel Association , Rob Schmidt .

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  1. How wonderful that Rob and Claudia Schmidt took the time to contact Rye News. it says a lot when the Schmidt’s have the charming Carmel-by-the-Sea nearly on their doorstep that they would fly thousands of miles to Rye. Our American friends, and anyone else from overseas, should be made to feel very welcome. I always find it so pleasing to see the more obviously visible Japanese and Chinese travellers taking the time to walk around and photograph our cobbled streets and historic buildings. Rye is special, people come from all over the world to visit us. This is why it must be preserved and why the Rye Conservation Society need to pull their finger out and show they are doing something active and useful. And we should also vocally resist those that don’t live here that would stick parking meters, electric car charging ports, and ugly road signage wherever they please with no regard for how our town looks. If we are complacent and apathetic regards the appearance of Rye we will destroy the visitors desire to come here.

  2. What a wonderful letter and a reminder that Rye holds a place in the heart for so many people outside its walls. I just want to tip my hat to the two Window Wanderland weekend Festivals that took place in the winters of 2020 and 2021. The first one was especially poignant, taking place, as it did, in the first nervous emergence from a strict lockdown. Rye News was wonderfully supportive of these events, organised by solo powerhouse, Arabella Ansar and made successful by those businesses and organisations that took part. I hope spectacular town events can emerge again and people will step up to organise them. The job can be disheartening sometimes because not everybody operates on good will. But most people do, so I’m hopeful.

  3. Thank you for that letter. I spent 5 months in 2020 locked down in Rye. As weird as it sounds, I was never happier. The “villagers” were generous with their time, respectful of our “spatial” relationships, and they were scared. For they were concerned for their families and their jobs. But on my daily walks, I never sensed anger or defiance. Just their decency toward humankind. I miss Rye. I think about it everyday. And I hope, no, I pray that this is the year I return.


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