Walking the world, one trail at a time

Exploring Rye Harbour nature reserve, east Sussex

A gentle seaside walk through the Rye Harbour nature reserve.

Our journey down to Rye Harbour was part two of our backpacking excursion – we had tackled the start of the High Weald Landscape Trail the day before.

Skip to the route.

When we got up that morning we weren’t exactly in the best of spirits. We’d been listening to the sounds of the Angley wood all night; foxes sniffing around our tent, cars driving on the distant road and, rather spookily, music being played nearby.

But we had to push on, not least so we could get out of the woods before the dog walkers spotted our campsite. After a cup of coffee and a rudimentary fry-up (bacon, beans and bread) we packed up and went on our way.

Our original plan was to walk from Rolvenden to Rye, hitting the coast in time for dinner. Our rubbish walking performance the day before, however, meant that wasn’t going to happen. We decided to catch the train to Rye and walk from there.

I was expecting a quaint, British seaside town, but the walk down to the nature reserve is rather.. Industrial. How many solvent processing plants does one town need?

Among the industrial no man’s land is a hidden gem, though. The Rye Spice Company.

The building is painted camo green, with two fibreglass chilli peppers accessorised with sombreros and guitars at the door. It was as though we were walking in Texas rather than Sussex. Inside is all manner of spices, chutneys and other chilli-related paraphernalia. I picked up some naga ghost chillies for my boyfriend (as of yet unused.. Thank god), and then we turned our attention to the ‘Chilli Kitchen’.

The Rye Spice Co does tasting sessions once a month, to showcase their spices. We were treated to a Spanish-themed feast of paella, chorizo and olives, all washed down with a nice chuggable glass of red. For free.

It was a serendipitous coincidence. I couldn’t help but think if we had actually managed to walk all the way to Rye.. free food and wine would have made me so happy.

We filled up and continued on to the nature reserve, where the mood changes from industrial dystopia to tranquil waterways. The route takes you into the nature reserve with the pebbled beach on your left and a swampy marsh to the right. There are bird hides dotted around the park, where we spotted avocets poking around for bugs.

Further along is the famous red-roofed fisherman’s cottage – a cute-as-a-button feature of the Rye Harbour – and then finally, the sea.

Flopping down onto the pebbles and closing our eyes felt so good. We stayed a long time, letting the sun warm us and listening to the water lapping at the shore nearby.





Getting there

From London, catch the train to Ashford International (departing from St Pancras), then change for the train to Rye. The journey takes about an hour and a half.

Pub stops

After a few refreshments at the Rye Spice Co, we had a slap-up lunch at the William the Conqueror, which is located right on the harbour.

What we’d do differently

Aside from, you know, sticking to our original walking plan? Nothing.


5.2km / 3.25 miles


1 hour, plus beach lazing time.


Easy breezy.

The route

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