Shorelarking at Rye

We went down to Rye harbour in Sussex, a few weeks ago, on a beautifully sunny but bitingly cold day. The actual harbour entrance is in the middle distance of the above photo with Dungeness Power Station just visible on the horizon in the distance.

This red-roofed hut sits on the shingle on the approach to the harbour and has become the iconic image that everyone photographs. I resisted the temptation this time, but took this one a few years ago. No one seems certain when it was built, but it was certainly in use from the early 1900’s onwards and was used to store fishing equipment.

The salt marshes behind the harbour constitute a nature reserve and are an important place especially for migrating birds. We walked around the marshes for an hour or so and did see quite a few birds, especially when we spent some while in a hide with the binoculars we’d brought. No close-up photos, because we were too far from the birds and I only had my pocket camera that day, but especially noticeable was was a group of some forty to fifty cormorants.

One of the tasks of the Environment Agency here is to continually move shingle in trucks westwards along the coast to shore up (pun intended) the sea defences. Due to the prevailing winds, longshore drift continually moves shingle eastwards along the coast and without this intervention it would choke the harbour mouth and undermine the sea wall at Pett (to the west). They load up the trucks with shingle from the shore, the trucks drive west and tip it out on the shore. The sea washes it eastwards along the coast again. The trucks load up with shingle from the shore…It almost feels a pointless exercise, but I suppose there’s no real alternative.

But longshore drift means that the shorelark on the South coast of England has a chance of finding rocks and stones (and all sorts of other things) that originated further to the west, and we spent some while searching among the stones here to see what we might turn up.

Shorelarking? It’s like mudlarking, but on the seashore. ‘Larking’ in this sense means looking for…well, anything. Coins, interesting rocks, anything lost or old or, preferably, both. Not that we found much, not that we ever find much, but we don’t do it as seriously as some folk. And as nice as it would be to turn up the sort of finds some people find in the mud of the Thames, we’re not that dedicated. But in the past I have found bits of flint tool while fieldlarking, and usually come home from a walk with an interesting stone or two.

We did find a couple of interesting things that day – they don’t look much, do they? But the grey stone in the centre is possibly a Mesolithic hammer stone, used for shaping flint tools while the nail had a tiny piece of wood still attached, but this crumbled away as soon as I picked it up. How old is it? I’ve no idea. Nails like that were in use from the 1800’s through into the 1900’s but it’s impossible to pin it down further. My immediate thought was it could be part of the beach groyne, but when I looked they seem to be constructed entirely with rivets. Maybe it is from an old shipwreck. The rock at the bottom is simply a lump of sandstone from further west along the coast, a piece of what was called Hastings Sandstone when I studied geology, but now known as the Ashdown beds. Nothing special, again.

Just an interesting few finds on the beach on a cold sunny day before we headed off for a warm drink.

27 thoughts on “Shorelarking at Rye

  1. I have enjoyed reading post and the walk along the beach. There were many of the huts like yours along the harbour front where trawler man stored their equipment. They were all painted dark red..
    The stones are beautiful so I hope you saved them.😊


    Liked by 1 person

      1. Wonderful word, shorelarking. New one for me and a very apt description of your walk on the beach. Enjoyed reading about it too, very interesting anecdote of the shingles being shifted regularly. Thanks for sharing.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. ‘Shorelarking’ was a new word for me, as was ‘mudlarking.’ On the other hand, doing someting ‘on a lark’ was a common expression here when I was growing up. Perhaps there’s a connection there. Until I realized the size of your nail, I thought it was a railroad spike. I have a half-dozen rusted spikes I picked up in Arkansas; they rest on a bedroom table now. My sense of what makes a good souvenir is a touch quirky; none of my best ones ever were purchased in a shop.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, that sounds very familiar. Our house is pretty full of rocks and various other things we’ve picked up when we’ve been out on walks. Everything is so interesting!

      A lark is defined as (amongst other things) an activity done for enjoyment or amusement:, so I guess that’s where it comes from.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Like some of your other readers, I’ve never heard of shorelarking. Then again, I hadn’t heard of mudlarking before your post today, either. It sounds fascinating and was what I liked to do when I could access a beach. I love pebbles, stones, rocks and crystals, and I have many old ones at home. I particularly like your blue stone.

    My ten-year-old granddaughter wanted to be an archaeologist a while back, so she has my passion for stones and bits of things you can dig up. However, now she’s decided to be a zoologist as she wants to save all the animals on the planet.

    The photos you’ve included in your post are excellent, as always, Mick. You always make travel in this country so attractive. I feel like I’ve been along for the ride with you. Thanks for the journey (and the company). Have a lovely evening, Mick.


  4. I like that word, “shorelarking.” It sounds like you had a nice time. It’s hard to resist picking up a few treasures, isn’t it? And it’s cool to imagine that stone being a tool so very long ago, or the nail holding an old building together, or maybe something on a ship. As for the drift problems, with the massive changes coming our way from global warming, I don’t think it’s a viable long-term solution but I suppose it doesn’t hurt anything to keep moving those truckloads of sand, or should I say, shingle?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Shingle, Yes. It’s been a problem for people living on the coast throughout history – harbours silt up, shingle banks build up and leave fishing villages a long way inland and cut off from the sea, and, of course, some parts are eroded and fall into the sea. Sooner or later we just have to accept losing parts of the coastline.

      Liked by 1 person

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