About Rye Harbour nature reserve

sandwich tern and chick
Sandwich tern and chick

At over 1100 acres, Rye Harbour Nature Reserve is one of Britain’s most important conservation sites, a rare coastal landscape of outstanding geological, biological, cultural and heritage value on the unspoilt coastal boundary of East Sussex and Kent. 

A mosaic of interlocking shingle ridges, saltmarsh, intertidal grazing, reed-beds and saline lagoons, it is home to some 4,275 species of plants and animals, including more than 200 rare or endangered birds and mammals. Reflecting this importance, it enjoys a spectrum of national and international protections: the whole Reserve is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, most of it a Special Protection Area, and large areas Special Areas of Conservation. 

It is also recognised as a Natura 2000 site, providing the highest international protection for wetlands, so vital for a host of different bird species and much-needed nesting sites for thousands of migrating birds from Northern Europe to as far as the Arctic. In 2018, its surrounding coastline became protected also, with a large stretch of coastline from Hythe in Kent to Cooden, near Bexhill in Sussex, being classified as a Marine Special Protection Area in recognition of its importance for food to sustain the populations of rare birds so dependent on our seas. 

Camber castle barryyates

A place of great historical importance, it also contains a rich heritage of military fortifications spanning the 16th, 19th and 20th centuries, landmarks to its ever-changing coastline: Henry VIII’s Camber Castle; a Martello Tower built to defend England against Napoleon; and a number of WW2 gun emplacements when we last faced the threat of invasion. It’s also important in the world of art, too, with many of the world’s leading artists – JMW Turner, Eric Ravilious, Paul Nash to name but a few – all drawn to this special stretch of coastline by its unique landscape and extraordinary light. 

But looking after such a large and special site costs money – to pay for staff, for equipment and materials, and to maintain the many rare habitats our wildlife and plants need to survive. The Discovery Centre Project will help us develop new ways to support this vital work, so please donate to the Project now.

You can find out more about Rye Harbour Nature Reserve and its special features .

Its future is in your hands.