Saturday, 11 July 2009

Rye Harbour

I spent a wonderful day with Big Bro yesterday, in his haunts of west Sussex. After scooping me up from Battle station, he suggested we pick up picnic provisions for a lunch at Rye Harbour reserve. Excellent idea. So it was off to Great Park Farm , an enchanting nursery and farmshop.
First we had a nosey round the plants - a lovely selection of shrubs and perennials. Big Bro and I showed admirable restraint in not buying anything.
The farmshop is everything you'd hope for: bags of produce grown on the farm supplemented by local cheeses, meat, preserves and bread, with the odd favourite (Patchwork pates) from further afield. We stocked up with local ham, Sussex charmer and Barkham blue cheese, Somerset brie, Lighthouse Bakery bread, spring onions, radishes, and Big Bro grabbed a couple of bottles of Fentiman's ginger beer. Then we made a mad dash over to Todd at Food Fore Thought to buy a couple of what I think are the best chickens in the country. More of the chicken later.
Back at BB's house at Rye Harbour we added to the picnic with some sprouted alfalfa, Kent tomatoes and cutlery. BB hoisted his unfeasibly large viewing implement and we were off through the town to the start of the reserve.
Rye Harbour reserve has to be one of BB's favourite places on earth - when I ring him, he'll often say, in a dreamy voice, 'I'm on the reserve...' The reserve is a triangle of land - the top of the triangle is Rye, and it spreads out to Winchelsea beach at one point and the mouth of the river Rother at the other. I swear there's not a plant or bug that Big Bro doesn't know.
This is wild carrot - BB showed me the very centre of the flower which is the only bit of red among the frothy white. The flowers were covered with metallic green insects. BB pointed out some other wild relatives of our modern veg - parsnip and fennel.
The path leads down along the Rother, with the odd World War 2 concrete battlement dotting the landscape. The reserve is the largest shingle habitat in Europe, with a unique ecosystem. BB has spent a happy spring and summer watching wading birds raise their young.
These Sussex cattle were grazing quietly in the sunshine. Something I'd been looking forward to was snacking on the marsh samphire - otherwise known as glasswort. Here it is growing amongst sea purslane. BB had got permission from the warden for us to sample the glasswort - it's a tiny succulent plant that's crunchy and tastes of the sea. An excellent appetiser.
Another edible plant that grows all over the reserve is sea kale. After flowering, they're covered in green bobbles. BB says greenfinches love them.
Near the mouth of the Rother, there are WW2 gun emplacements: thank god we never needed to use them.
We were now very near the point where the Rother meets the sea. Small fishing boats were returning from work, heading back to the harbour.
We finally settled down on the shingle shore for our lunch, having worked up a fine appetite. BB set up his spotting scope and scanned the horizon for huge container ships travelling from Rotterdam to British ports. He found one, bobbing up and down on the swell. The sea was very fierce on the shore and it got a bit chilly when the sun went in - it was one of those English summer days when you need t-shirt AND fleece, just in case.

We swigged our ginger beer and toasted a fine day out.


peacockshock said...

Looks like an extraordinary place. I bet that sea kale's popular with the local rabbits.

Lickedspoon said...

Sounds like you had a wonderful day!

mangocheeks said...

I agree with peacockshock,
It looks like an amazing place. Can I come next time? (I'm Smiling).

fran39 said...

Thanks, guys! Yes, it's a wonderful place. I'm looking forward to seeing it in winter.