Wild Rye

Sunday mornings don’t usually find me on the seashore, but this particular Sunday in July whilst we were holidaying in West Kent I noticed that there was a free guided Nature Walk at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve. Now being only 20 minutes away AND free  I thought that would be a great way to spend a couple of hours and learn something about specific shingle flora too.

Rye Harbour was once a very busy fishing port, but over the centuries the harbour has silted up and the village now lies two miles from the town of Rye. The Nature Reserve  is quite flat with some wheelchair access to all five of the bird watching hides and many paths suitable for rugged wheelchairs with some paths along a private tarmac road.


So if you have ever wandered on the shingle shores and salt-marshes of England and wondered about what grows in such an inhospitable landscape then come along and we’ll see what we can find.


Upper Saltmarsh


In May and June the masses of sea kale have clouds of white flowers which are honey scented. The sculpturesque leaves are tough and waxy and shaped to allow rain-water or dew to funnel down to the long tap roots. The strange round translucent green fruits appear in July. They look like peas and taste like cabbage. Oh, and yes, like the sea samphire this plant is edible.


Shingle Ridge


Scarlet pimpernel – laughter bringer, shepherd’s joy, shepherd’s sundial, shepherd’s weather-glass – is a pretty little flower which only opens when the sun is out and then only between the hours of 9 – 3 closing at once if the sky becomes overcast and threatens rain, hence its rather lovely common names.

After exploring the shingle ridge we headed inland towards the lagoons. With the clouds dispersing and the sun appearing, the morning brightened up, and away from the beach it was much more sheltered. Skylarks rose out of the reeds and hovered high above as we went looking for hidden treasures, their sweet song radiating through the air.


The reserve contains some rare plants including Least Lettuce and the Marsh Helleborine Orchid, which sadly wasn’t quite open. A stunning orchid of wetland areas looking more like a diminutive Cymbidium orchid from tropical Asia than something you might find in Britain, it was a privilege to see it.


Heading back towards the car park look out for the Martello tower #28 on your left.

martello tower

 Rye Harbour Wild Reserve website has much more information about this type of habitat and the different walks around the reserve. Without the experience of the volunteer guide I wouldn’t have seen half of these plants, never mind know what they are. The walk provided exercise and education and was most enjoyable. A donation is appreciated, but by no means demanded.

More lovely walks can be found over at my friend Jo’s place.


33 Comments Add yours

  1. A delightful journey through a very different kind of plant life and environment – thank you for sharing such an interesting trip!

    1. Heyjude says:

      Thanks for visiting my blog Lynn. I have been to have a look at yours and realise that I shall have to spend some more time there, browsing through your flower photos! Nice to meet up with a fellow plant lover 🙂 And thank you for all your lovely comments.
      Jude xx

  2. Sammy D. says:

    Very nice and a change of pace. I love these harsher landscapes – after living in our drier climate for so long, I’ve learned to stop and observe individual plants and bugs because the beauty is in the small details in these wind-blown places. You captured the wealth of small beauties very well.

    1. Heyjude says:

      Thank you Sammy. I must admit I took a lot of bad photos on this walk – I was trying to keep up with the guide when he stopped to point out the various plants and their habitat, take a photo and write notes, all at the same time!

      1. Sammy D. says:

        Not one of those zen walks,eh? 🙂

  3. Lucid Gypsy says:

    Wow such rich plant life 🙂

    1. Heyjude says:

      Incredible isn’t it? You sort of notice the sea kale and the viper’s blugloss as you walk on this terrain, but you really do need to stop and look closely at what is around you to see such diversity of plants. Very interesting.

  4. A spectacular post Jude: so much beauty in unexpected places. I want a guide to name me coastal vegetation around here, although it’s nothing like as varied as your marshes. I’m a bit of an orchid tragic (or was in a past enthusiasm), so I relished your sighting of the rare one.

    (I’ve been trying to emulate your galleries on my new blog without success. Any advice?)

    1. Heyjude says:

      Hi Meg. It is so good to have someone along who knows what the vegetation is – I knew some of the plants, but not all, and I would never have found the Least lettuce or the orchid without him.

      Re galleries: I select ‘create a gallery’, select from the photos uploaded and then play around with them as they don’t always display well. I like to use 3 photos as square tiles (depends on size of image – landscape or square looks better, my max size is 1300 pixels landscape or 800 square) and for bigger galleries I use the Tiled Mosaic option. I keep portrait images to around 700 pixels height otherwise they are too long. Then move them around to suit! I find an odd number seems to work best.

      1. You are so generous. Thank you. I’ll have a fiddle.

      2. Duuuh! I wasn’t updating and previewing – I was just looking in the edit panel, and thinking i’d got it wrong again. A combination of your advice and a midnight thought got me functional.

    2. Heyjude says:

      Ah, I should have mentioned that you have top keep constantly updating and previewing to check on the display aspect. I wish WP would make it easier to preview photo galleries so you don’t have to keep doing that! When is your new blog going to be live then Meg?

      1. Probably next week. It’s pretty-well organised. There are a few things I want to post on the old one first, including a farewell and come-with-me post. And guess what. I now have a map of England on my desk so I can stalk your whereabouts.

        An English friend who lives near me knows the Rye area well and loved your post.

      2. restlessjo says:

        A new blog? I’m excited! 🙂 Between the two of you, you should have cooked up a ‘good un’. 🙂 Have you ever used the ‘random’ option for the tile mosaic? Viveka (My guilty pleasures) always does and it can be interesting. But I’m a control freak. 🙂

        1. Heyjude says:

          I’ve tried the random option, but it can be a bit messy if you have a mix of landscape / portrait images – they don’t always fit very well. May try it for images of the same size though. Squares are good for 3 images.

  5. restlessjo says:

    I love this post, Jude. I can’t have been paying full attention when I started (only arrived home at 1.30 this morning and not quite with it yet- excuses! excuses! ) because I was thinking ‘sea splurge, sea kale- how does she know all this?’ A guided walk which is accessible to the disabled- excellent! Thanks a lot for taking me places (again!) 🙂

    1. Heyjude says:

      Lovely to see you again Jo, fully refreshed from your holiday – I do hope you managed to relax a little 😀

      1. restlessjo says:

        If you count sitting on a coach to Gibraltar for 4 hours there and 4 back, sure we did! 🙂 Thank you- we had a wonderful time, including an extended happy hour with our next door neighbours, 3 lovely Portuguese ladies.

  6. Amy says:

    Thank you for taking us along. Love the flower gallery, Jude!

    1. Heyjude says:

      Thank Amy. So much more to shingle and salt-marsh landscapes than you might think!

      1. Amy says:

        And these plants are growing and blooming so well. Are you in 1 day 1 week, Jude? I think I’m going to join this week 🙂

        1. Heyjude says:

          I am in the project Amy, but haven’t done well with the recent early hours! Hope to get back into the swing of it now though 🙂

  7. Patrick says:

    Clicked over from the Garage…You are right, many of the plants do look familiar. I have no clue as to the names either but do enjoy looking at them and sharing the photographs. Looks like it was a beautiful day for a walk through the marsh.

  8. I love your photos. Years ago we spent ten days in Rye and Winchelsea and made some lovely walks along the coast and through the woods and meadows. The shingles indeed were fantastic. We also went to see Great Dixter, created by Christopher Lloyd. The vibrant colors and the daring combination inspired us when we made a new design for our garden. Did you visit this garden?

    1. Heyjude says:

      Oh yes, Great Dixter is a favourite. I love this part of the country – so many beautiful gardens. Have you seen my garden page? You may have visited some of them.

      1. In any case I remember Hidcote and Kiftsgate Court. The first garden was impressive, the second charming. I’ll have a look at your garden page for more inspiration!

  9. Oh, and the mulberry tree in the garden of Lamb House (Henry James’ house) with its luscious fruits!

    1. Heyjude says:

      Mulberry trees take me back to Johannesburg where we had one in the garden and my eldest son (then under two) was purple from playing underneath it! Lots of luscious mulberry and apple pies though 🙂

      1. That sounds great and that pie must have been delicious. Lately I was very glad to find mulberry jam at the Turkish supermarket. The jar is already half empty!

  10. Amazing the variety of species in such an inhospitable environment…. including an orchid. Love the names, and there lurking was a Scarlet pimpernel! Fascinating post Jude 🙂

    1. Heyjude says:

      I was astonished at the number of species growing there. A shame the orchid wasn’t quite open, but without the guide I would have never found it.

  11. Lucid Gypsy says:

    Ahh yes the red hut 🙂

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