Cycling the Rye Harbour Tramway

by Peter Etherden

Despite the assurances in the October 2005 issue of Rye’s Own that all was well in this best of all possible (Bexhill and Lewes administered) worlds, permit me to express my continued scepticism that a cycle path will be constructed between Rye and Rye Harbour by the end of March 2006 or indeed in any foreseeable future.

Existing political mechanisms are quite incapable of delivering such an outcome. The fast tracking being promised for the cycle path will not happen as long as the chaotic and disastrous failure to develop the antiquated road system needed to service the unprecedented pace of industrial development between Rye and Rye Harbour is subject to the arbitrary whim of the innumerable committee presuming jurisdiction over this matter.

Furthermore public funds will start to run out next year as more and more black holes appear in the moth-eaten tapestry of our local and national (and global) public finances. Meanwhile cunning bureaucratic forces will continue to throw obstacles in the way of meeting the local road development needs until Lewes, Whitehall and Brussels have their bullying ways with the route of the Rye by-pass. And there are many of us who will continue to make sure they don’t. Most of us here in Rye are in favour of a trunk road along the south coast to take the juggernauts from the Channel Tunnel and the Dover Docks to the West Country. But we insist that it should go many miles north of Rye instead of cutting through our ancient town.

Peter Jones
Peter Jones

Direct action, traveller style, is the only certain way that the people in Rye and Rye Harbour will get themselves a cycle path before somebody else is killed. But if local residents no longer have the fire in their bellies of their forefathers and foremothers there is another way around this bureaucratic impasse.

One hundred years ago trains ran from Rye Harbour to Rye and Rye’s former Mayor, E.H. Benson has delighted generations of Mapp & Lucia aficionados with his tales of the goings-on aboard the Rye-Camber railway. Well much of the original earthworks for the Rye Harbour tramway are still there. The track is used regularly every day by joggers like myself and by dog-walkers, tourists and local residents out for a pleasant afternoon stroll. And a very beautiful route it is too with Camber Castle in the background and sheep grazing in the fields alongside this designated public footpath. You can join the tramway on the other side of Brede’s Sluice a few yards on from the Lock Keeper’s Cottage on the Rye Harbour Road and take it all the way to the far side of Bourne’s container park with its impressive array of containers for its worldwide ‘movers storers and shippers’ business. The footpath comes out onto the Rye Harbour Road well past the Heidelberg Cement Group’s Solvent Resource Management facility (as this local toxic waste importer likes to be known) and passes along by the side of several lovely lakes…part of the Castle Waters Nature Reserve.

From the end of the existing footpath it is a stone’s throw…well a slingshot perhaps…to Rye Harbour Church. And from there it would take cyclists and walkers just a few minutes to make their way from the church to the pleasantly-designed new houses at Oyster Creek on the edge of Rye Harbour Village.

If it were not for the idiotic idea that long-distance rule from Bexhill, Lewes and beyond made sense for the management of local affairs, the people of Rye and Rye Harbour would have re-connected their two communities by this tramway route decades ago. Indeed they would have clubbed together with the people of Camber to overrule the privileged vested interests of Rye Golf Club to provide ordinary people with a local railway from Rye Harbour through the centre of Rye to the best beaches in the country at Camber Sands.

But as far as the Cycle Path is concerned, if Rye Town Council had power over its own purse strings and the people of Rye Harbour looked after their own affairs, a few phone calls would set things in motion in hours and have the project finished in weeks. How long must we continue to go along with the stupidity of fat-cat politicians concerned only for their salaries and their pensions and intent on servicing, not the people of Rye and Rye Harbour, but the interests of big business? How many more people have to be killed on the Rye Harbour Road before sanity finally breaks through?

Peter Etherden

I’m sticking to my guns Peter, I still believe stage one of the Cycle/Footpath will be completed by the end of March Ed.)

From “Rye’s Own “ November 2005

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