Thursday, August 23, 2007

10.8.07: Rye Harbour and the Mary Stanford Disaster

11.50am :
Temperature 24C, humidity 34%, wind south easterly, day's mileage, 5 miles.

Cycling back to meet Miriam Bowley who works at the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, I see Maureen and Roger reading the Daily Express on the shingle near the Mary Stanford building. They live in Beckenham and have been coming here for years. Maureen's mother has a lung condition - she's not sure what it's called - and Maureen worries they over-protect her by not encouraging her to walk and by taking her everywhere by car.

Heading inland past the river mouth, I pass this fisherman's hut - a house drawn by a small child.

At Lime Kiln Cottage, the HQ of the nature reserve, Mirian tells me about her job, and the animal science degree and wild life biology and conservation masters she studied. She is passionate about the environment and wants people to get out of doors for a "breath of fresh air" so they can learn about it. As we discuss organic versus non-organic farming methods, Miriam's four month old dog Truffle chews enthusiastically on a plastic plucked chicken.

Having previously worked on a National Trust farm, Miriam knew a farrier who contracted lung disease caused partly by smoke and hoof dust from his work.

Miriam tells me it was children from St. Thomas' School in Winchelsea who made the beautiful commemorative artwork on the fence around the Mary Stanford building. After I leave Lime Kiln Cottage I visit the massive memorial in Rye Harbour church. Several members from the same families were lost in the disaster.

Following this I head back to the harbour and the William the Conqueror pub where there is a yearly memorial for the lifeboatmen. Outside the pub Alex is riding up and down on his bike while his family are having a drink in the sun. He likes the stuffed bird on my handlebars and squeezes it to make it sing.