A Q&A session with the Dedham Vale AONB and Stour Valley
As we launch our Greentraveller's Guide to Dedham Vale, our writer, Juliette Dyke, chats to Paula Booth - the planning and development officer for the Dedham Vale AONB - to find out why this area's a special place to visit, whatever the season
Why do you think people should visit the AONB?
To experience the tranquillity of the area and enjoy the rolling fields, lush woodlands and meadows and appreciate the cultural connections and picturesque villages. It’s a place to visit at a slower pace; no fast-paced entertainment around here.
Is it a good destination to visit year round?
Yes, I think the off-peak times of year are just as enjoyable as mid-summer. Winter can be one of the best times, if you are lucky enough to visit on a crisp bright day for a good long walk followed by a lunch in a cosy pub. There are plenty of great places to enjoy walking at any time of year, the only difference is what you do when you finish. Whether you end up warming up by the open fire in a local pub, or dipping your toes in the nearest stream to cool off.
Of course, like most places, the Dedham Vale is at it’s busiest in the summer, but if you want to get away from it all, there are still plenty of paths off the beaten track. The most popular spot is undoubtedly the walk between Flatford and Dedham, so if visiting in summer, try an early morning or an evening stroll as it might mean you get the place to yourself.
Are local tourism businesses getting more involved in green initiatives?
I think it’s a good marketing opportunity for businesses to promote the fact that they are using local produce, and will make our tourism offer a bit more ‘exclusive’. Our heritage buildings are also part of the offer, as we have nice surroundings and nice food. It’s a trend which is targeted at some people and not all.
Is it possible to get around without a car?
Yes it is possible, and the best way to really get the feel of the area is to be on foot or go by bike. Being on foot means you can really get away from it all and enjoy the lovely network of paths. If visiting for the day, Manningtree Station brings you close by and it’s a 40 minute walk along hedge-lined and riverside footpaths brings you to Flatford which definitely beats the alternative of arriving via the car park.
For longer trips, some people may have arrived at their accommodation by car, but it’s still good to leave it behind for the day and get those walking boots on. In the summer months, we are lucky enough to have the Dedham Vale Hopper bus running which provides a circular service to all of the main villages of the Dedham Vale plus a link to Manningtree train station.
What does living and travelling in a more sustainable way mean to you?
It means making conscious decisions about how you live, what you consume, having less impact through your actions and being a conscientious consumer.
What do you love to do in this area when you have some free time?
Riverside walks, enjoying the cultural connections especially in Flatford and Dedham, and exploring Arger Fen with its little valleys, views, woodland and lush bluebells.
What do you enjoy most about getting off the beaten track in Dedham Vale AONB?
I love to appreciate the mini scenes, snapshots and special moments during a walk, for example a viewpoint, a scent, or an unexpected place.