Sticks and Stones: Exploring the coast between Hastings and Dungeness

Colin Bailey
Oil Paintings
Exploring the coast between Hastings and Dungeness
Rye Bay
The coast that forms Rye bay runs between the headlands of Fairlight and Dungeness. To The west Hastings old town nestles between two Hills; the West Hill on which is situated Hastings Castle and the East Hill with its funicular railway, which leads to a series of ridges, known as the Fire Hills. These go through a roller coaster ride of contours which at their south end form the cliffs on which Fairlight is situated. These finally plunge down to the sea at Pett level. The coast then curves gently inland, past the old Cinque Port of Winchelsea until it meets the mouth of the Rother at Rye Harbour, about two miles south of Rye. After Rye Harbour the beach turns from shingle to sand. Camber Sands started to accumulate from about 1800 due to the shelter afforded by the developing shingle at the mouth of the Rother. Camber with its sand dunes and wide beach at low tide became a popular holiday resort. From Camber the coast sweeps back out past the MOD firing ranges at Lydd to the  bleak shingle bank of Dungeness, with its ominous and prominent nuclear power station
Camber Castle
Camber Castle was built by Henry VIII to protect Rye from French raids. Originally guarding the mouth of the River Rother, it quickly became redundant as shingle built up to its seaward side. Within a few decade its canons could longer reach the sea!
Old town roofs, Hastings. View from the steps leading up to the East Hill's funicular railway
Rock erosion at Rock a Nore at the foot of the cliffs between Hastings and Fairlight
In the 15th Century Rye was one of the most important ports on the South East coast. Due to the build up of shingle acting as a seawall Rye is now situated two miles from the sea. Once an important shipbuilding port along with Winchelsea, Appledore and Tenterden Rye gained a different reputation in the 17th and 18th Century as a haven for notorious gangs of smugglers such as the Hawkhurst gang who used the town as a base, meeting in the Mermaid Inn in Mermaid Street.
Looking back to the headland at Fairlight: Groynes at low tide
The Coast
In Britain, the southern half of the coastline is slowly sinking (on the east coast, at the rate of half a centimetre a year). This and the constant action of the wind and sea results in a rapidly eroding and moving coastline. The rocks that crumble from the cliffs at Fairlight are slowly ground down to shingle and sand which is moved along the coast through a process known as longshore drift to end up at Dungeness.
To slow down the erosion of the coastline through longshore drift, erosion and to prevent flooding to the reclaimed land behind, groynes have been put into place between Fairlight and Rye Harbour.
The rocks at Hastings date from the Early Cretaceous period, between 132-147 million years ago. During this time, Hastings would have formed part of an extensive river delta system, comprising of many rivers and streams. As such, the sediments found today represent the layers deposited in the rivers and lakes at this time. Hastings is one of the only places outside the Isle of Wight, where Dinosaur bones can be found.
Fishing Fleet
Rye still retains its small fishing fleet catching the plaice and Dover sole that thrive in the shallow waters of Rye Bay. The Fishing boat registration code RX is common to all the fishing boats in Rye Bay and can be found on the old boats drying or abandoned on the beach at Dungeness, Rye Harbour and Hastings.
Hastings has the only beach launched fishing fleet in Europe.
Snow on the shingle and marshland surrounding  Camber Castle. Looking out to the seawall.
The weblog with the lastest wildlife news for the Hastings, Rye Bay, Dungeness and Romney Marsh area.

Etchings and Giclee prints
of Rye, Hastings and the
East Sussex Coast
Further reading and maps of the Rye Bay area and surrounding countryside