Constable Country, which is officially known as Dedham Vale, is a region that demonstrates the very best of Essex countryside where you can explore picturesque villages, walk across rolling hills and enjoy landscapes that include everything from luscious meadows through to ancient woodlands.
Constable Country: A little history
"I associate my careless boyhood with all that lies on the banks of the Stour. Those scenes made me a painter".
- John Constable
Constable Country has been so called in honour of artist John Constable, who brought the region to life through oil sketches that remain of interest and debate to this day. This region surrounded his home, with his most famous works being Wivenhoe Park painted in 1816, Dedham Vale painted in 1802 and The Hay Wain, painted in 1821.
"I should paint my own places best... painting is but another word for feeling".
- John Constable
Exploring Constable Country
Stour Valley Path
The Stour Valley path covers 60 miles in total and takes walkers from Newmarket near the source of the River Stour through to the Dedham Vale. A guide of the path is available to order from the Dedham Vale and Stour Valley Project website.
The Marshland is a wonderful natural habitat for a wide variety of birds (particularly wetland birds including lapwings, redshanks, shoveler and shieldluck).
The Painters' Trail
The Painters' Trail covers 69 miles of the Dedham Vale and proves to be most popular for exploring by bicycle. There are three routes which can each be as suited to a relaxed ride as the last: Route 1: Exploring country lanes and covering 18 miles; Route 2: Exploring the Stour Valley through to the river estuary and covering 18 miles and Route 3: Exploring Constable Country and covering 18 miles. You can order your map of the Painters' Trail bicycle routes from the East of England tourist Board or download from here.
For those who would like to be shown around by a knowledgeable expert there are daily tours of Constable Country provided by the National Trust at Flatford. Information on the tours and rambles of Flatford and Dedham Vale can be found on the National Trust website.
Seeing all that there is to see of Constable Country
1. Beginning at Manningtree Station turn right at the car park ramp, and right again at the bottom of the ramp. Then turn left onto a grass footpath, followed by almost immediately tuning right onto the main track which will be signposted Flatford. Continue on until you can turn right to go underneath a Railway Bridge.
2. Continue on to the river embankment where you'll turn left. Follow the path which runs alongside the river wall. Here you will be able to see the Cattwade Marshes.
3. Continue along this picturesque path until you come to the environmental flood defence barrier at Flatford. You may then head back to the station for those wanting a shorter walk or continue inwards to Dedham village (which is around 40 minutes away).
The Dedham Vale Hopper Bus
To explore father into the area without extensive walking there is the Dedham Vale Hopper Bus, which costs £5 for a standard adult ticket or £2.50 for a standard child ticket. This bus covers the following stops:
Manningtree Rail Station - Flatford - East Bergholt - Stratford St Mary - Dedham - Lawford - Mannigntree Town Centre.
View the Dedham Vale Hopper Bus Guide for more information on fares, timetable and routes.
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