A rucksack full of Rye

Sunday saw me head south to Rye Harbour. I don't know why my visits to this part of East Sussex are so infrequent - I really enjoy going there.

The enclosure above can be found west of the disused lifeboat station and contains two rare species of plant - Least Lettuce and Red Hemp-nettle. The latter is surprisingly hard to see considering the showy red flower, but there was enough of it inside (and just outside) the compound to make it hard to miss on this occasion. As for the former, well; a scrawny, dull, shy flowerer that sometimes can be prostrate on the shingle is never going to shout out it presence. Yesterday however, I did find a single plant close to the fencing. It wasn't flowering, but it was, after all mid-afternoon - they are best in the morning.

The Red Hemp-nettle above was found much closer to the river, a single plant all on its own. I have seen this species at Rye in small amounts anywhere from the river along the beach almost to Winchelsea. Apart from the fenced off compound it can lead you a merry dance.

The building above is the disused lifeboat station. I cannot pass it without walking up to the doors and spending a few moments reflecting on the sadness that marks it. At 04.30hrs on 15th November 1928, a ship was floundering off of Dungeness in a violent storm. The Rye lifeboat crew responded to the distress call, hauled their boat down the shingle beach and rowed out into the black maelstrom ahead. When they were a little way out those on land received a message that the stricken boat's crew were safe, so a recall flare was fired. The Rye crew did not see it, and rowed on. When dawn broke, their lifeboat, the Mary Stanford, was seen floating upside down in the water, as the first body from the 17-strong crew was being washed ashore. All had perished. The station has not been used since and remains as a monument to those brave men.

I experienced one of those rare, special moments that come along when you are watching and enjoying the natural world (I took the picture above just afterwards). I was walking up to this field and was taken by the creamy flush across its surface. I could see through binoculars that they were the flowers of a species of mayweed, but which species? As I got closer, the warm westerly wind started to bathe me in a sweet perfume, carried to me, no doubt, from the hundreds of thousands (millions?) of Scented Mayweed flowers ahead of me. You cannot buy these moments...

My day was helped along by a good selection of plants, including Marsh Mallow (above), Sea-heath and Sea Wormwood. Up to 40 Mediterranean Gulls were left over from the breeding colony. A flock of 300 Sandwich Terns were also loafing around and I was pleased to be able to watch half a dozen Little Terns. It is far too long since I last watched one.


Tricia Ryder said…
I've never been to Rye Harbour but hope to rectify that over the next few weeks when I will be spending more time down in West Sussex (so not so long a journey)

Looks as though I'll be in for a treat :D.
Factor said…
Love the new look, Steve. Where is the background image taken from?
Steve Gale said…
Tricia - it's a great area and I can recommend the Avocet cafe and gallery opposite the shop!

Neil - I'd like to claim that I took the background picture during my time as a bounty hunter in the Arizona desert, but it comes pre-loaded on a Blogger template.
Factor said…
Quite appropriate for the summer months. Looks as desolate as a June day bird-watching in Surrey!
Mark G. Telfer said…
Steve, next time you're looking at the Red Hemp-nettle at Rye, look out for its specialist flea-beetle Dibolia cynoglossi. I think Rye is the only site for it in Britain.

Popular posts from this blog

Where once were terns

Brambling spectacular

Corn Buntings on the South Downs