Rye is a small ancient town in East Sussex, England, which now stands almost two miles from the sea. In medieval times, as an important member of the Cinque Ports confederation, it was almost entirely surrounded by the sea but the sea has since retreated leaving the ancient citidel of Rye
Rye has a well-established reputation as a centre for shops trading antiques, collectors’ books and records, and has many art galleries selling works by local artists and potters with changing exhibitions throughout the year.
Rye Farmers’ Market takes place on Strand Quay every Wednesday morning and Rye’s general weekly market takes place on the marketplace car park by the station every Thursday.
Rye Castle Museum is located on two sites, in East Street and at the Ypres Castle. Rye Art Gallery was established as a Trust in the early 1960s and provides a focus for contemporary visual art, which it exhibits alongside heritage artworks from its Permanent Collection.
Rye also stands at the centre of a network of nature reserves, some of national importance. The Rye Harbour SSSI lies to the south and includes the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve. The neighbouring Pett Levels and Pools, and the Pannel Valley nature reserve are accessible via Winchelsea and Winchelsea Beach a few miles to the west. Scotney Lake lies just off the Lydd road and the RSPB reserve at Dungeness lies a few miles further to the east with the Bird Observatory located in the old lighthouse.
The recent redevelopment of the Rye wharf has provided modern amenities for the landing and storage of fish. Most is sold wholesale through the regional market in Boulogne, but Rye is developing as a gastronomic centre in the style of Newquay or Padstow, featuring the use of fresh local produce from the sea. The annual “Rye Bay Scallops Festival” which takes place each year in February promotes the “Rye Bay Catch”. Excellent scallops (and flatfish such as sole, plaice and dabs) are to be had in Rye Bay because of the shallow and relatively sheltered water. A ‘Wild Boar Week’ is also held every autumn with local pubs and restaurants each serving a variety of dishes created from locally sourced wild boar.
Every year in September, Rye hosts its annual two-week “Arts Festival” which attracts a world-class series of performers in music, comedy and literature and 2012 saw the first annual “Rye Jazz Festival” which is held over the August bank holiday weekend.
On the Saturday after November 5 the “Bonfire Boys” stage their annual torch-lit parade through the streets of the town, supported by visiting Bonfire Societies from all over the Sussex Bonfire Societies Confederation. This is followed by a huge bonfire, where the chosen effigy of the year is ceremoniously blown-up, and a spectacular firework display. This event typically attracts over 10,000 visitors to the town, and results in the town’s roads, and the main roads to London, Hastings and Ashford, being closed to traffic from the early evening onwards!