The gentle rolling hills, winding River Stour and water meadows of Dedham Vale AONB and Stour Valley give it a quintessential English countryside charm. Situated on the border between Suffolk and Essex, this characteristic lowland English landscape has inspired countless artists and writers. Still as beautiful today as in the time of Constable and Gainsborough, the rivers, meadows, ancient woodlands, picturesque villages and rolling farmland of the region provide the perfect backdrop for walking and cycling. All across the area are countless cultural attractions and outdoor activities, from sea kayaking or boating on the Stour to art galleries and museums.
Dedham Vale is one of the smallest AONB’s in the country at 90km square
Three major artists are linked to the area: Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788), John Constable (1776-1837), and Sir Alfred Munnings (1878-1959)
Recent barn owl conservation work has almost doubled the number of barn owls in the AONB in the last couple of years
The Stour Valley Path is a popular long-distance path running the length of the river valley - 63 miles in total
The Stour Valley Volunteers achieved a massive 437 volunteer days in 2011 and carried out 35 major tasks.
There are 21 parishes that have at least part of their area within the AONB
A word from the Dedham Vale AONB
Nigel Chapman. Chair of Joint Advisory Committee of the Dedham Vale AONB and Stour Valley ProjectThe Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), with the River Stour as its spine, is known as ‘Constable Country’ to so many people and is probably the best known scenery in the world of art! Originally recognised and designated over forty years ago the AONB is as stunning now as it was then – and as it was in John Constable’s day!
It was Constable who wrote that he associated his “careless boyhood with all that lies on the banks of the Stour”, and he continued, “I will never cease to paint such places; they have always been my delight”. Yet it is an unpretentious countryside; virtually all one can see is made or determined by man; there are no imposing vistas but this small scale intimate character allows nothing to escape the eye, as can happen in grander landscapes. Ancient woodlands, hedgerows, riverside meadows, church towers and picturesque villages combine with the wide East Anglian skies to create this tranquil and inspiring panorama that can be enjoyed by all those who visit and explore the rich historical and artistic links in the Vale.
I am fortunate to have lived, worked and enjoyed this countryside all my life and I am now lucky enough to be able to support the AONB Project team as it works to ensure that this quintessentially English landscape will survive into the future. We have statutory responsibilities to conserve and enhance the distinctive character of the Vale and a duty to support its economy and communities too, so that both visitors and local residents will benefit from and share in all that the area has to offer. It is good to see that this guide encourages us all to live sustainably and in particular reveals environment friendly information on accommodation, transport and what’s on and where in the area.
I trust that this guide will give you a taste of what makes the Dedham Vale so very special and encourage you to come and see us. It offers a unique opportunity to slow down, escape the pressures of everyday life and appreciate a corner of England that has inspired so many artists and writers in the past and that continues to do so today.