The Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and Stour Valley Project area make up around 117 square miles of the Essex/Suffolk border in the East of England. The area is a perfect rural idyll, typified by its undulating farmland, wooded valley sides, gently meandering river and picturesque, chocolate-box villages. Enjoy the exceptional beauty of the Dedham Vale that inspired the famous artists John Constable and Thomas Gainsborough, venturing off the beaten track on foot or by bicycle.

FLATFORD AND JOHN CONSTABLE. Bures Mill is a Grade II listed timber framed watermill. Flatford Mill is a Grade I listed 18th century watermill built in 1733 in Flatford, East Bergholt, Suffolk, England. Attached to the mill is a 17th-century miller’s cottage which is also Grade I listed. The property is located in the heart of Dedham Vale, a typically English rural landscape. It is noted as the location for works by John Constable, whose father owned the mill. Constable made the mill and its immediate surroundings the subject of many of his most famous paintings. It is also the title of one of his most iconic paintings, ‘Flatford Mill (Scene on a Navigable River)’, and is in the title or the subject of several of his largest paintings including: Flatford Mill from a lock on the Stour; Flatford Mill from the lock (A water mill) and The Lock. The Hay Wain, which features Willy Lott’s Cottage, was painted from the front of the mill. The mill is located just downstream from Bridge Cottage which, along with neighbouring Valley Farm and Willy Lott’s Cottage, is leased to the Field Studies Council, a group that uses them as locations for arts, ecology and natural history based courses. We would like to thank the Mayflower Morris dancers who are seen performing at Flatford Mill.
DEDHAM VALE. The majority of the land in the valley is still farmed despite development pressures. Farming is the primary tool for supporting the area’s landscape and wildlife. Arger Fen, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, contains areas of ancient woodland, meadow and fen. The River Stour is the key landscape focus for the valley; its course is defined by bank-side trees and wet meadows. It supports a variety of riparian (river) habitats. The valley floor has large areas of functioning floodplain. Water quality is good, meeting levels demanded in regulations. The catchment meets sustainable demands for water supply, flood control and recreational use, whilst retaining an unspoilt character and healthy ecosystem.
MANNINGTREE. The name Manningtree is thought to derive from ‘many trees’. The town grew around the wool trade from the 15th century until its decline in the 18th century, and also had a thriving shipping trade in corn, timber and coal until this declined with the coming of the railway. Mistley Towers are the Grade I listed remains of the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, demolished in 1870. Manningtree is known as the centre of the activities of Matthew Hopkins, the self-appointed Witchfinder General, who claimed to have overheard local women discussing their meetings with the devil in 1644 with his accusations leading to their execution as witches. Harwich: Despite, or perhaps because of, its small size Harwich is highly regarded in terms of architectural heritage, and the whole of the older part of the town, excluding Navyard Wharf, is a conservation area. The regular street plan with principal thoroughfares connected by numerous small alleys indicates the town’s medieval origins, although many buildings of this period are hidden behind 18th century facades. There is a foot & bicycle ferry available every day until October, then Weekends/school holidays thereafter. Although accessible from Dedham Vale, it actually forms part of the Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB.

STRATFORD ST. MARY. Evidence of Stratford St. Mary’s antiquity includes traces of a henge from c. 4,000BC, and Roman remains on Gun Hill. The original Saxon settlement comprising 30 tenants and a mill mentioned in Domesday Book was abandoned as settlement grew along the river and the road to Bergholt. A series of manorial court rolls beginning in 1318 reveal that many of the medieval families were connected with the wool trade which accounts for much of its early prosperity. Benefactors included wealthy clothiers like the Mors (or Morse) family who generously endowed the church. Stratford’s long, straggling main street lined with inns provides evidence of its bustling prosperity in the coaching days when the town catered for a continuous traffic of cattle, turkeys and geese bound for the London market. St. Mary’s church, Langham, originates from the 12th century, and has featured in the works of John Constable. The River Stour runs through the area, and is popular with canoeists.

Stoke by Nayland is a village in Suffolk, England, close to the border with Essex. The village, located within the Babergh district, contains many cottages and timber framed houses and all surround a large recreation field. Once the site of a monastery, the population of the civil parish at the 2001 census was 703. Wissington Mill (also known as Wiston) comprises an 18th century Water Mill and Mill House; it was originally three Tudor cottages, but was converted to its present state in the 1920’s. Arger Fen is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and Nature Reserve, owned by the Suffolk Wildlife Trust; it covers 48 hectares. Nayland is a village which joined Wissington parish in 1883, and is now collectively known as Nayland-with-Wissington.