Taking a Rye View; HOMES AND PROPERTY;With Its Mix of Historic Charm and Rufty-Tufty Bluster, Rye Has Appeal for Every Londoner in Need of Escape

By Anthony, James | The Evening Standard (London, England), February 28, 2001 | Go to article overview

Taking a Rye View; HOMES AND PROPERTY;With Its Mix of Historic Charm and Rufty-Tufty Bluster, Rye Has Appeal for Every Londoner in Need of Escape


Anthony, James, The Evening Standard (London, England)


Byline: JAMES ANTHONY

With its mix of historic charm and rufty-tufty bluster, Rye has appeal for every Londoner in need of escape, says James Anthony

IMAGINE living and working in London, but, during the summer months at least, being able to wake up on a Saturday morning, pack the picnic baskets, load up the beach bags, grab the sea rods and take a 10-minute drive to the beach for an old-fashioned day on the sands. In winter, substitute this for a gentle potter around cobbled streets, browsing through second-hand book shops and checking out antiques sellers. All this before decamping to a centuries-old pub falling under the shadow of an imposing castle tower.

Unlike some southern-coastal towns, Rye has managed to retain its seaside charm without being blighted by retirement homes and rehoused drug addicts.

Situated on high ground in the otherwise lowlands of East Sussex, the ancient Cinque Port is an easy M20 drive out of London (from south London on a good day it takes oneand-a-half hours).

Approaching Rye via nearby Lydd, you're thrown straight back in time by the sight of prefab beach homes and row upon row of caravans and chalets in Camber Sands.

The glimpse of Dungeness power station in the distance may give the impression that you are about to step off the edge of the world. Nothing, however, could be further from the truth. Stop the car and climb over the concrete sea defence and you'll see why the area is so popular: miles and miles of sandy beach and undulating dunes.

Once in Rye, a fleet of fishing boats points to a flourishing local economy.

Rather than succumbing to the chocolate-box tweeness that so often afflicts small towns making a living from second-hand bric-a-brac shops, Rye retains a fish-and-chips, Saturday-night burn-up kind of feel.

The multitudes of bikers (all impeccably behaved) descending on the town reinforce this image as a place not to be messed with.

Away from the fishing fleet, it's considered fine sport in Rye Harbour to sit at tables provided by the harbour's seafood kiosk, enjoy a half-pint of cockles and pass the time observing (discreetly, naturally) the weekend powerboat mafia making a landlubber's mess of navigating their rumbling craft into the Channel.

For all this rufty-tufty bluster, "old" Rye, with its shops, art galleries, the castle tower, St Mary's Church (where the judge who jailed the Kray twins is buried) and coaching inns, welcomes weekending Londoners with open arms.

If the place offered enough distractions for the late MP Alan Clark to have once made it his base, it's good enough for those of us who are not quite so high-living.

Nick Robbins, manager of the Rye office of Rush Witt and Wilson estate agents, says: "Rye has always been on the map but it has managed to remain unspoilt. It's a great place for Londoners to spend a weekend as the journey's not too long, yet you feel a million miles away.

There has been talk of electrification of the railway line from Rye to Ashford and a Lottery grant for Rye Harbour. If these get the go-ahead, the future will be very bright for Rye." He says one-bedroom flats in the town start at [pound]60,000, two-beds at [pound]80,000 and a two-bedroom house at [pound]100,000.

While Rye makes its bread and butter from its seaside connections, a short drive into the surrounding countryside shows why the likes of Sir Paul McCartney and London business tycoon Ivan Massow have homes in the area; the former choosing to erect a huge deer-protection plantation on his acres, the latter being a onetime amateur whipper-in with the East Sussex and Romney Marsh Foxhounds.

Back towards Rye, the Play Den Oasts pub, converted from an oasthouse, is a frequent drop-in for pop stars making use of Sir Paul's recording studio.

Locals say that visitors include musicians Paul Weller and Glenn Tilbrook of Squeeze, suggesting sufficient metropolitan cool to remind the second-homeowner that it's only an 80-mile trip back to town on a Sunday evening. …

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