We love Dedham here at Lee Wick Farm and if we aren’t canoeing along the River Stour, we can often be found walking Polly, our Jack Russell in the picturesque countryside.
The best part is that this beautiful part of the world, made famous by the artist John Constable, is only 30 minutes away from St Osyth by car.
John Constable: Dedham Lock and Mill
One of the shortest walks we do in the area is this one, it’s a circular walk and takes about an hour (if you don’t stop off for tea and scones!) and is approximately 5 kilometres long.
(First I must apologise for the grey pictures, we decided to go for a walk on a slightly overcast day in June, it looks much prettier on a sunny day!)
We generally start in the village of Dedham itself, there is parking in the main street, which is free, or if busy try the large car park in Mill Lane (just off the high street), there is a charge for this.
If you park in the car park, walk to the entrance and turn left back towards the high street. Walk past the Arts and Crafts centre (which is great for gifts or a cup of tea), this should be on your right hand side on the opposite side of the road and head down the gravel drive way next to The Fountain House Restaurant and Hotel.
Keep going and turn right through the kissing gate when you see the black barn buildings on your left. There are usually sheep grazing here so dogs need to be on leads, we had to rescue a sheep on a walk once, as it had got it’s head stuck in the fence! At twilight it’s like Watership Down here as hundreds of rabbits come out of their burrows and hop about the pasture.
The grass is worn a little so the route is easy to follow. There is a field of crops after about 15 minutes or so of walking, you can walk round the edge of the field, or there is generally a path kept clear through the middle, so don’t feel bad about taking the shorter route.
There is another kissing gate after this and then you come to a large concrete flood defence structure (the only thing that isn’t very scenic on the walk), keep this to your right hand side and walk past it through the gate towards Flatford Mill, this is your half way point and if you are anything like us time to stop off for refreshments, an ice cream or cream tea perhaps. Walk past the lock admiring the beautiful old cottages and turn right across the old bridge past Bridge Cottage and in to the tea room and shop, (you can sit outside in the garden area with dogs) if you walk on past the National Trust shop you will come to Willy Lott’s Cottage, made famous in the Constable painting called The Hay Wain and then to Flatford Mill.
John Constable: The Hay Wain (above)
There is also a very pretty garden created by the RSPB to the left of the bridge and a tourist information office with loos just past this to the right hand side.
To continue the walk, cross back across the bridge past the boat hire sign, (you can hire row boats here in the summer months) and through the gates with the river to your right. There may be cattle in these fields but they seem friendly enough and are just content to stare at you and graze.
Further ahead as shown by the picture above you will see a clump of trees and bushes, go past these then head right and you’ll see a bridge (below), you will need to cross this and turn left on the other side of the bridge, going through the kissing gate.
View from the bridge
The river should now be on your left hand side. Ducks, swans and Canada Geese can often be seen here along with a dog or two going for a dip. The final part of the walk takes you past the wooden rowing boats (you can hire these between 10am and 4.30 pm from £7.00 for half an hour spring / summer months only), moored by the Boathouse Restaurant. The restaurant is very nice for lunch or dinner, in the summer months you can sit outside and eat.
Go through the final gate and on to the road, turn to the left and you will head back in to Dedham village past The Marlborough Head, which is as good a place as any to end your walk with a refreshing drink (the front bar is dog friendly and there is a courtyard garden).
There is another pub in the village which is called The Sun Inn, this is along the high street to the right if you are facing the church. It’s dog friendly with a court yard and grass garden at the back, but is also great for the colder months as it has a fire in the front bar.
By the way, The Parish Church in the main street has one of Constable’s paintings called ‘The Ascension’ on permanent display.
So that’s one of our favourite walks, you can add more distance by diverting through neighbouring villages such as East Bergholt and Manningtree to create a 6 mile or 10 mile walk: http://www.dedhamvalestourvalley.org/publications/walking-guides/
If you fancied a touch of culture at the end of a walk in this area, Sir Alfred Munnings Art Collection and Museum (set in his house) is just around the corner in Dedham on Castle Hill. Well worth a look for his wonderful paintings of horses and lesser known works of London society and sculptures. Do check the opening hours before you go as it isn’t open all the time: http://www.munningsmuseum.org.uk/