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.