As part of our Green Traveller's Guide to Dedham Vale, Paul Bloomfield picks out a selection of walks, cycle rides, watersports and courses in this glorious Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in southeast England.
Don’t be deceived by the gentle countryside and relaxed pace of life here - there are plenty of adventures to be had in Dedham Vale AONB and Stour Valley.
Whether you’re a walker or a cyclist, wanting to mess about in boats or expand your creative horizons, there will something here to keep your mind and body fully active. Head off on foot down the 60-mile Stour Valley Path, explore the rural country lanes and picturesque villages by bike, or take to a Canadian canoe and navigate your way down the River Stour to get up close with the local wildlife.
Learn some rural skills and traditional crafts like stone carving and cider making, deepen your knowledge of natural history with a course on botany or birdwatching, or take inspiration from the landscape and learn to capture the same beautiful scenes as Constable, Gainsborough and Munnings on a residential art course.
River Stour Trust River Trips
Take a ride down the river in one of these elegant electric boats, run by the River Stour Trust between spring to autumn. The launches, Kathleen, Rosette and Stour Trusty II all come with a traditional Edwardian style canopy and can carry up to eight adult passengers, whilst the Francis J is also specially adapted for wheelchair access. Hop on from Sudbury, Great Henny or Great Cornard and stop off for a spot of lunch at the Henny Swan pub. riverstourtrust.org/river-trips/
Nomad Sea Kayaking
The ultimate way to explore the coastline and estuaries of Essex has to be by sea kayak. You’ll be able to reach remote spots and get up close to the wildlife in a way that just isn’t possible in a larger craft. Even if you’ve never tried it before, the guides at Nomad Sea Kayaking can provide all the equipment and take you out for an afternoon or a whole weekend for trips along the Essex and Suffolk coast. nomadseakayaking.co.uk
Flatford Field Studies Centre
You may already recognise Flatford Mill from the paintings of John Constable, especially the most famous of them all, The Haywain. These days however, the buildings are used by the Field Studies Council to run educational courses about environmental issues for school and college students as well as individuals and families. Learn how to identify birds, trees, and coastal plants, or even try your hand at freelance writing about wildlife. Get creative with watercolours and sketching, or get your camera out and capture some stunning autumn colour. The centre offers all the classroom facilities and equipment you’ll need plus on site accommodation, or there is a list of recommended local B&B’s. field-studies-council.org
Fountain House and Dedham Hall
This 15th century manor house is the perfect place to hone your artistic talents. Set in the serene, Essex countryside just outside Dedham, Fountain House offers accommodation, delicious food and art courses run by professional artists. Some courses are based in the on-site studio, whilst others will take you out into the landscape that has inspired so many artists in the past. The accommodation is comfortable and characterful, and the restaurant which overlooks the pond is renowned in the area for its imaginative recipes and adventurous wine list. dedhamhall.co.uk
For information on places to stay, local food and drink, and nearby visitor attractions, see our