Flatford and Constable Country walk

Flatford, Suffolk

Route details and mapDownload as a print friendly PDF
Little Egret © www.arthurgrosset.com

Little Egret

Willy Lott's House © Sarah Barfoot

Willy Lott's House

Dedham Vale view © www.dedhamvalesociety.org.uk

Dedham Vale view

River Stour at Dedham © Ron Strutt

River Stour at Dedham

Route overview

Explore the picturesque Stour Valley and Dedham Vale made famous by the paintings of 18th-century England’s foremost landscape artist.

John Constable painted many idyllic views of the area in his famous six-foot canvases, scenes which remain easily recogniseable today. In a letter to his close friend, John Fisher, John Constable’s description of the Dedham Vale, said 'The sound.of water escaping from Mill dams... Willows, Old rotten Banks, slimy posts, & brickwork. I love such things... As long as I do paint I shall never cease to paint such Places......

Route details

See this step-by-step route marked on a map

Route map of the Flatford and Constable country walk, near Dedham in Suffolk
  • Directions
  • Route
  • Bus stop
  • Parking
  • Toilet
  • Viewpoint

Start: Manningtree Station, grid ref:TM093322

  1. Leave Manningtree station exit and descend ramp to the right. The footpath starts from the end of the ramp in the car par. After leaving the car park, turn right along a track, then right again under a railway bridge. Follow path until you reach the river and turn left along a streamside path taking you through the Cattawade Marshes.

    Show/HideCattawade Marshes

    The Cattawade Marshes is where the freshwater of the Stour meets the tidal estuary and is a great place to spot waterfowl and waders. The little egret (pictured) can also be seen fishing in streams and ditches downstream of Flatford.

    Little Egret © www.arthurgrosset.com
  2. Walk behind Fifty-Six Gates, and follow the path on the bank to the hamlet of Flatford.

    Show/HideFifty-Six Gates

    The banks are protected from very high tides by a new barrier further downstream. Fifty-Six Gates is the original flood defence designed to stop salt water inundating the low-lying Dedham Vale.

  3. You can take a short detour to see Flatford Mill, Willy Lott's House and the site of The Hay Wain painting. You can then return to Manningtree by the same route or continue on to Dedham.

    Show/HideFlatford and Willy Lott's house

    The little riverside hamlet of Flatford is the setting for some of Constable's most famous paintings, such as the well-known 'The Hay Wain'. Bridge Cottage is now home to a NT tea-room and shop and a small exhibition on Constable.. Flatford Mill and Willy Lott's house are owned by the National Trust but leased to the Field Studies Council which runs arts-based courses there.

    Willy Lott's House © Sarah Barfoot
  4. Leave Flatford by walking from Bridge Cottage towards the RSPB wildlife garden. Go up the steps on your left and follow the path to the car park. Turn left at the top of the car park and after 110yd (100m) take the footpath running parallel to the road.

  5. Turn left into Fen Lane.

    Show/HidePanoramic views

    The panoramic views in this picture are captured in Dedham Vale morn; look out for the landscape which inspired The Cornfield when walking along Fen Lane towards Dedham.

    Dedham Vale view © www.dedhamvalesociety.org.uk
  6. Shortly after crossing a bridge, turn right along a tree-lined footpath. Cross riverside meadows, until you reach a bridge at Dedham.

    Show/HideDedham

    From his home in East Bergholt, a mile or so to the north, Constable used to walk across the riverside meadows to Dedham every day on his way to school. Dedham is a pretty village with Church of St Mary the Virgin, home to an original Constable painting, The Ascension. This is the best of his three religious works. It was painted in 1821, the same year as the Hay Wain.

    River Stour at Dedham © Ron Strutt
  7. Leave the village on a footpath after the drive to Dedham Hall. Follow this to Flatford, bearing left at a National Trust sign to Dedham Hall Farm.

  8. The river leads back to Bridge Cottage across water meadows. A kissing gate marks the site of an old stile featured in another Constable painting, The Leaping Horse. Retrace your path back to Manningtree Station.

End: Manningtree Station, grid ref:TM093322

  • Trail: Walking
  • Grade: Moderate
  • Distance: 4 miles (6.4km) or 7 miles (9km) on optional loop
  • Time: 2 hours 30 minutes or 3 hours 45 minutes on optional loop
  • OS Map: Landranger 168; Explorer 196
  • Terrain:

    4 miles (6.4km) return from Manningtree to Flatford. Optional loop to Dedham adds another 3 miles. Generally flat grass and gravel paths with some moderate slopes. Can be muddy after wet weather - take care when walking on riverside sections of the route. Dogs on leads please.

  • How to get here:

    By foot: Along Station Road (B1352) from Manningtree Town Centre

    By bike: The Painter’s Trail cycle route passes through Stour Valley to Manningtree station

    By bus: Services to Manningtree station and Dedham from Colchester and Ipswich

    By train: Manningtree (London Liverpool Street to Ipswich line)

    By road: Off A137 Harwich to Ipswich road. Car park at Manningtree station, Flatford and Dedham

  • Facilities:

    WC's at Manningtree Station, Flatford and Dedham villages.

    Food and drink : National Trust riverside tea-room and shop at Flatford, other shops and pubs at Dedham.

    Flatford Bridge Cottage : Exhibition on Constable

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