Tuesday, 19 December 2017


Excavator loading dumper truck

The tide is an extraordinary force to be reckoned with. Sailors and fishermen, if they're wise, treat it with respect. In my more active sailing days I crossed the channel, on several occasions. This was before the days of satellite navigation when you had to be able to read a chart and use a compass and... if you were going out of sight of land for any length of time, know how to use a sextant. I had been out of sight of land on several occasions but I was never that far out at sea that I needed to use one. Anyway, I digress.

Rye Harbour breakwater

Not only do the tides move the oceans up and down but it also affects the beaches and along this stretch of coast this means shifting the shingle. So, over the course of several months our beach at Pett Level ends up tight against the breakwater at Rye Harbour. Therefore, somehow, this needs to be remedied by bringing the shingle back.

Narrow gauge railway track

Simplex locomotive

Originally a two foot narrow gauge railway ran along the top of the sea wall, all the way from Rye Harbour to Cliff End. A little petrol locomotive, called a bow-framed Simplex, pulled a rake of skip wagons, each one holding a ton of shingle. This obviously required many journeys but it must have worked as the practice continued well into the 1950s. How things have changed.

Dumper trucks at sunset

Nowadays a fleet of six dumper trucks, each holding 20 times the capacity of the railway skips, trundles the five miles back and forth along the sea wall, full of shingle travelling west and empty returning east. A pickup truck acts as escort vehicle. This goes on from late November until March, then the sea shifts it all back and the following winter it starts all over again.

Sea wall - Pett Level

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