Gardens, galleries and good food

We have been visiting Rye for more years than we care to remember. The frequency of our excursions have increased since our great friends Tim and Lesley decided to leave the hubbub of city life and relocate to Peasmarsh, one of the last villages that you pass through before arriving in Rye.

We were excited to hear that Lesley had taken on a new project, by purchasing a beautiful holiday cottage called The Find in Rye – and what a find it is. You might say that I am biased, but it takes a lot to divert us from our normal plans of having holiday in mainland Europe – however when we saw this cottage, we knew needed to give it a try.


So if you decide to stay at The Find or any of the other great places in the area, then hopefully this travel blog will help you.

Here are some of the great places we visited

Dungeness – Most people will have heard of Dungeness mainly because of the power station. Whilst this monstrous edifice is still there, it somehow blends into the background against the amazing natural and manmade landscape of the rest of the area. Award winning houses designed in the modern vernacular, sit alongside the houses that still look like the railway carriages that were the basis of the settlement here forming. You can enjoy the work of artists, have a drink with friends, buy freshly prepared fish as you wander and wonder at how this place came to be a desirable place to live for many.IMG_0742IMG_0770IMG_0779

Hastings / St. Leonards – I know some will be upset that I have grouped these together, but I have done this for the sake of time, so please forgive me. This area has undergone a much needed transformation in recent years. Whilst much of Hastings retains it’s old tourist appeal, the old town now boasts a range of unique shops, restaurants and coffee shops located in the old High Street and George Street. Antiques, collectables, and mock vintage sit alongside quirky and inviting coffee shops and restaurants. It’s worth a visit to The Stade Gallery, and well as the many fresh fish shops in the restored net drying huts. St. Leonards is slowly becoming the place of choice for investors to buy well priced second homes, or places to let, and is beginning to catch up with Hastings Old Town for eating and shopping


Bexhill boasts the recently restored De la Warr Pavilion – a photographer’s dream. With a range of live performances sitting alongside pop up exhibitions, it has become a popular cultural destination. In another visit recently, I enjoyed the memories evoked by the exhibition of Ladybird books. Cooden beach is worth a detour, if only to see some of the newer houses there that have been designed in the “modern” vernacular.

IMG_9623Pett Level and Winchelsea Beach – This area in between Hastings and Rye is a mixture of fixed caravan sites alongside an array of 1st and 2nd homes. After you have enjoyed some of the amazing fayre from the Red Pig, a popup eating place on the beach road, make sure you walk to the end of the beach at Pett Level. You can annoy the locals on the way by peering into their gardens and marvelling at the amazing views they must have. A walk to the of the beach is a must.


Rye – a town steeped in history, it was popularised more recently by the Mapp and Lucia TV series, much of which was based in the National Trust property of Lamb House. We did make a visit to Lamb House, but found it rather soulless and disappointing. With only 4 rooms open, there is very little there to evoke the past.


Walking around Rye is not for the fainthearted, but you will be rewarded if you do. It’s shops range from the predictable through to those that leave you wondering how on earth do they survive and make a living. Those who are vinyl collectors, need to make sure you visit Grammar School records, a well stocked, well organised shop which will amuse vinyl fans for hours. Make the most of the view points, stop off and have a coffee, wander around the ‘antique’ shops, and enjoy a a drink or 2 in the many hostelries.

Rye has an amazing array of restaurants, and I would highlight The Ambrette and The Standard Inn. 2 very different establishments, but both serve great food, deliver great service, and provide great value for money.

Rye Harbour – It is worth noting that the harbour is not within walking distance of the town, but don’t let that stop you from making a diversion to visit this nature reserve. Take a break in the bird hide, marvel at the number if rabbits along the way, and watch out for the gulls dropping mussels onto the pathway to break them open. Rye Harbour is probably at its best during the early evening. If you are there during the day, it is worth making a detour to the Avocet Gallery.


Gardens Galore – my wife loves gardens and gardening and I love taking photographs, so we took full advantage of being in an area that is full of a mixture of well known and not so well known gardens. So here is a quick overview of a few of the places we visited.

IMG_1418King John’s Nursery and Lodge probably my favourite garden to visit. This is a garden and nursery run by people with a passion for plants and who have a beautifully kept house and garden to visit as well as a well stock nursery. The views from the coffee shop terrace are worth the detour alone. We were lucky to catch an Open House art event happening there at the same time.

IMG_0656Sissinghurst The quintessential English Garden, and former home of Vita Sackville West and Harold Nicholson. This is a garden designed as if it were a series of rooms, and is  obviously designed to have something to see all year round. Make sure that you walk over to the vegetable gardens and enjoy the amazing views across the downs

IMG_1616Pashley Manor – Probably the garden with the most upmarket, dare I say posh, appeal. The gardens are a delight, with a surprise around every corner. The experience was greatly enhanced by a display of exquisite but expensive sculptures scattered throughout the formal and informal gardens. Give the restaurant a try, beautifully presented fresh food served with a smile

IMG_1671Charleston – This is described as ‘the home and country meeting place for the writers, painters and intellectuals of the Bloomsbury group” Whilst the garden is mildly interesting, of more interest is the house itself. A guided tour, by an enthusiastic tour is worthwhile, and you feel as if you have had a glimpse into a world that is alien to many.

IMG_1060aaMerriment Garden and Nursery – This is another of those nurseries where they have seen the wisdom of showing their customers what is possible. Areas of shaded and calm spaces give way to amazing burst of colour. Beautifully maintained, a visit will increase your envy levels

If you would like to view some of my photographs, they can be seen here


About Mark Catchlove

All views are my own
This entry was posted in East Sussex, Hastings, Holidays, Rye, Vacation. Bookmark the permalink.

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