Fourteen of us gathered in early June at the George Hotel in Rye for a welcome drink, introductions and a chat about the coming two days walks of Rye & Winchelsea Walks. We then walked up to the beautiful church in the centre of Rye to meet our Blue Badge Guide Jane for a tour of the fascinating town crammed with layers of seafaring,
smuggling, literary and religious history. The tour gave us a glimpse of the many facets of Rye and a basis on which to look at the town and countryside over the coming days. We finished back at the George Hotel where we enjoyed an excellent supper and had a chance to get to know each other over delicious food and a glass of wine.
Following breakfast on Wednesday and having met our last guest we jumped on board the minibus to travel the short distance to Rye Harbour where our walk began. The sun shone and although the breeze was brisk we enjoyed walking over the marshes and through the nature reserve spotting birds from the bird hides and marvelling at the plants and flowers growing on the shingle. We also had a chance to see across Camber Sands and out to sea where the water was sparkling in the sun.
Our path took us inland around the water filled pits on the reserve and across the fields to Camber Castle where a Nature Reserve Guide Barry gave us a fascinating private tour of the Castle explaining the history and architecture of the Castle and showing us the rare plants growing in the walls. We also had the treat of inspecting pellets regurgitated by the local owls and these contained animals skulls and bones – it was intriguing.
We sat in a peaceful bird hide overlooking Castle Water for lunch before starting our walk back to Rye (with one small diversion!). Our path took us across the marshland crisscrossed with streams and ditches and along the old railway line back into Rye. Some of the group visited the Heritage Centre and enjoyed the sound and light show before all headed back to the George for tea and a rest.
A number of us met at 6pm for a walk down to the Mermaid Inn, one of the oldest buildings in Rye thought to have first been built on the site in 1156. It is the most interesting building with a rich and exciting history of involvement with the Town Corporation, religious persecution and smuggling – a fantastic mixture! The whole group then met in The Ambrette on the High Street for a superb supper.
We again gathered on Thursday morning at The George Hotel to start our walk to Winchelsea. The path took us along the banks of the River Brede across the marshland with
great views back to Camber Castle and ahead to Winchelsea. We then joined the path alongside the Military Canal and enjoyed walking through the peaceful, sunny and gentle countryside until we climbed up onto the road into Winchelsea through New Gate.
Winchelsea is a much gentler town than Rye set out on a grid pattern at the centre of which stands the magnificent St Thomas’s Church. After a visit to the church and churchyard we retired to the New Inn pub for lunch and a final chat about our two days holiday. Some of the group decided to spend longer in Winchelsea to visit the Court Hall and Museum before catching the bus back to Rye while the rest of the group set off on the 1066 Walk back to Rye passing under Cadborough Cliffs. Our path took us back in the town where we said farewell.
A lovely holiday with good company, masses of history, sunshine and great walking.
– By Barbara Hamilton