Whilst enjoying a late evening walk on Camber Sands, as the sunset, we began discussing our favourite local beaches and why they made our top 5 list.
Camber Sands(Obvious choice as we live opposite)
When we moved to Camber over twenty years ago to escape city life, our sons were only two and five years old. We remember our first walk on the beach on a chilly February morning as the mist hung heavy in the air. We crossed the road and headed to the sandy dunes, both boys in the traditional beach ware, welly boots if you are local, whatever the weather, favoured foot ware of the young! We climbed the path to the top and stopped to take in the view, as the wide-open beach stretched before us. The boys squealed with excitement, “this is all ours too?”, one of our fondest memories and now when we walk the same path, with those boys, now twenty-five and twenty-eight, we recall that time with joy.
Putting our sentimental reasons aside, the beach is extremely popular with families locally and from further afield. The beach stretches for miles and is mainly sandy with an odd patch of small pebbles and shells. One of the most popular beaches on the South coast and endless fun for children with the vast sand dunes to play hide and seek, sand surf and jump from, also perfect shelter if the wind is blowing from the sea. RNLI lifeguarded from Easter to the end of October, allowing for safe bathing in the shallow waters at low tide. The tide goes out for miles, so always wise to time a visit after checking tide times. The shallow pools left behind at low tide, are the perfect paddling pools for little ones to splash around in safely. Zoned dog-friendly areas from May onwards so no reason not to bring the family pooch for a day at the seaside too.
Rye Harbour Not an obvious choice I know but very popular with locals who enjoy a sea swim and much quieter than Camber Sands as it involves a long walk from the free car park. Many choose to cycle the safe path to the pebbly beach even with children and then the reward of a dip in the sea. With its sloping pebbly beach, you don’t have too much time to think about getting in for that swim, so that helps in our opinion, unlike wading for miles in shallow waters at Camber Sands. It’s a great beach for seal watching at certain times of the year or watching the fishing boats returning to the safe harbour waters, with seagulls in their wake. With the new Lime Kiln cafe and information centre, now open, you can reward yourself with a warm drink and slice of cake post-swim if needing a pick me up!
Pett Level Pett Level with its pebbly beach and sand at low water is another favourite with locals and a great rock pooling beach at low tide but remember to keep an eye on the incoming tide and avoid the mud as this can be treacherous. Another beach with free parking on the roadside and a seawall to walk along and enjoy the views and birdlife often enjoying the wetlands opposite. Looking to educate the children especially with so much homeschooling right now, this is the beach for you. At low tide, you can see the petrified forest and sometimes the sunken warship that is thought to date back to 1690. For those budding archaeologists amongst you, we highly recommend a walk along to the base of the cliffs, where you can find fossils if you are prepared to search and maybe spot the dinosaur footprints. Before you leave, why not create a tower with the beautiful stones that litter the beach, a natural game of ‘Jenga’ or a competition to see who can create the highest, always a nice way to end a visit to this quiet, unspoilt beach or whilst watching the sunset.
Hastings Now for us, we find a visit to Hastings beach, to be what many feels are a traditional seaside location. You have your pebbly beach which gently slopes towards the water, along a well-maintained promenade and all the trappings of a classical seaside town. You will find, fresh fish huts at Rock a Nore, selling prawns by the pint, cockles and whelks and whatever the fishing folk have caught that day to purchase. Wander further along and try your luck in the bright and noisy seaside amusements arcades, buy the tokens and let the children enjoy the small seaside rides, buy a stick of rock, candy floss or ice cream (always tastes so much better in the sea air). And before you travel home, then no visit to Hastings would be complete without ‘fish and chips’ from the paper wrappings, eaten overlooking the sea and the beady eyes of the gulls, hoping for a scrap, carelessly dropped. The seaside town is easily reached by train but if you do travel by car, there is a large car park on the seafront.
Dungeness Finally, Dungeness, not East Sussex, but close enough to feature in our top five. Very popular with bird watchers, beach fishing, artists and photographers. It really is an otherworldly location, sitting in the shadows of the huge Dungeness Power station and of special scientific interest, as it has a wide variety of wildlife and plant species. The beach is littered with abandoned boats, shacks, rusted winches and stunning plant life making it a photographer favourite, especially as the light normally adds to the atmosphere. For the garden lovers, then a visit to Derek Jarman’s house and garden is a must, always amazing how he made a very hostile landscape home and beautiful. For the steam railway enthusiast, then visit the railway stop at Dungeness and enjoy a ride or just see the miniature trains steam into the station, something the young and old enjoy. For a fabulous view, climb the redundant Lighthouse stairs to the top and on a clear day see for miles. An absolute summer favourite for us is a bite to eat from the Fish Shack, simple, unfussy, tasty food or if seeking more comfortable surroundings then, fish, chips and mushy peas, all washed down with a local ale at The Pilot is a must.
We hope you enjoyed our suggestions and would love to know your top 5 beaches, do remember to tag/hashtag us in your visits #ryeandbeyond and always, always, respect the sea and don’t go in if you can’t swim. The post was written while we were still in lockdown in the UK.