Robert Bathurst lives in Sussex and is a regular visitor to Rye Harbour Nature Reserve. He also featured, with an appearance by reserve manager Barry Yates, in an ITV programme called Britain’s Favourite Walks, which is soon going to be repeated. Emma Chaplin caught up with him over the phone.
How are you finding lockdown?
I’m fed up with the whole thing.
What’s helping keep you sane?
Nature. I know it’s a cliché, but the birds are louder, perhaps because I’ve had time to stop and stand and stare. I attempt to “read” the hedgerows with my ears. You don’t have to see the birds to recognise them but that’s not easy if, like me, you’re tone deaf.
I’m slowly clocking which birdsong is which, it’s a huge pleasure.
You often visit the area around Rye
Yes, I love visiting this part of Sussex. Winchelsea Beach, Pett Level, the walk from Hastings to Pett, steep and varied. Around Rye I like looking at the Marsh and seeing on the map where the sea would have reached if they hadn’t reclaimed the estuary, imagining the Isle of Oxney as an island. I always amazed by the Royal Military Canal, hand-dug in the early 1800s.
You visit Rye Harbour Nature Reserve sometimes
Yes I do. I’m looking forward to seeing the Rye Harbour Discovery Centre open. I’ve been keeping an eye on progress.
Sussex Wildlife Trust is so lucky to have the king of birders Barry Yates as their Rye Harbour Nature Reserve reserve manager. I first met him when we were filming a programme for ITV called Britain’s Favourite Walks, when I showed up asking dumb fool questions. Then I bumped into him again when I was in one of the hides at the Reserve with my daughter. He helped us identify what we were seeing; he’s so wonderfully knowledgable and enthusiastic.
You’ve had a long career in theatre, film, radio, TV. What’s been happening from a work perspective? It’s not an easy time for the arts…
No. Theatre is sunk and will be for a long time yet. Filming is more likely to start before theatre, using a lot of special effects for expensive films. Some theatres were already in a precarious state, carrying a lot of debt. It isn’t just the people who work in the theatre who are struggling, the buildings themselves will deteriorate. It’s very serious.
In terms of something positive that might come out of the lockdown? Well, there’s been a huge amount of invention. There are lots of indy, small scale movies being made and loads of music. Something not so positive? Zoom parties are deadly.
What work are you able to do at the moment?
I’m able to do voiceovers and audiobooks in my sound studio at home. I was doing a commercial for radio the other day, talking to the director who was in his home somewhere. There was suddenly a strange mechanical noise from where he was. “I’m sorry” he said, “my mother’s on the rowing machine”.
What does being in nature do for you?
It makes you realise that nature always wins. It can adapt to conditions better than humans, who try to control it. People say we must save the planet but the planet will do fine, it’s humans who’ll have to go.
Is nature something you’ve come to recently, or have you always been interested in it?
I’ve always been aware, but living in East Sussex has sharpened my love of the natural world; so many quiet lanes and walks, especially in the south of the county where people look less towards London. I did a walk the other day from Battle to Norman’s Bay. Completely idyllic; we got mobbed by Wall Brown butterflies in Hooe.
Wall Brown butterflies © Bob Eade
The more you know about nature, the richer the experience. It’s good to turn off the phone, listen, smell and surrender to your surroundings.
What do you hope for, when the Coronavirus crisis is over?
In amongst the shutdown and anxieties, there has been time for reflection. Perhaps in future I can bring that into daily life despite all the returning clatter. First stop will be going back to the hides at the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve.
All nine series of Cold Feet are available on Britbox.
If you would like to find out more about the Rye Harbour Discovery Centre project, or to donate to the Appeal, please visit ryeharbourdiscoverycentre.org.uk/
The Rye Harbour Discovery Centre is a low-impact, accessible, purpose-built centre designed to be a hub for visitors to Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, offering information about wildlife, exhibitions, events and educational activities. It is a joint venture between Sussex Wildlife Trust and the Friends of Rye Harbour Nature Reserve.