We’ve recently returned from a visit to East Sussex, where we stayed in the town of Rye.
It is a beautiful town, packed with medieval buildings. But signs of a far-from-peaceful history are evident as you walk around the town and local landscape.
Rye was part of the confederation of the Cinque Ports, which provided men and ships for the Crown (before the existence of a standing navy).
Part of the defence of the nation, Rye itself came under frequent attack. After the town was set on fire by the French in the 14th century, substantial walls and towers were built to defend the town.
Still surviving today are the Landgate and Ypres Towers (now an excellent museum).
The 16th century saw the construction of Camber Castle to defend Rye Harbour – though the silting of the harbour soon made it obsolete.
Camber Castle – Sussex Wildlife Trust
The Napoleonic Wars saw the creation of two Martello towers on the edge of Rye – this one now standing rather forlorn on the edge of a caravan park.
Even more recently, pillboxes or blockhouses were built to defend the coast from possible invasion during WWII. (We made an interesting discovery at this site, which I’ll write about in a future post).
The final line of defence on the Rye shore is not against invaders, but against the sea itself.
260,000 tonnes of rock have been shipped from Norway to protect the people and properties of Rye. And while these rocks defend, they also nurture the wildlife that lives on the shingle and salt marshes.
Photos: Mr X