The Dedham Vale is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and the smallest in the UK with an area of 90 square kilometres. It’s the area’s cultural heritage that played an instrumental role in securing this designation and the vale is inextricably linked to John Constable and the area within the AONB known as ‘Constable Country’.
The Dedham Vale and Stour Valley area is an excellent example of a lowland English landscape and parts of it it remain suprisingly unspoilt from when John Constable lived and did many of his most well-known paintings there. It is cared for by the Dedham Vale (AONB) and Stour Valley Management Group, whose role is to manage and protect the countryside within the vale and raise awareness of its biodiversity and cultural heritage.
The woollen cloth industry made its mark in the Dedham Vale and Stour Valley, as it did in so many of our Suffolk wool towns in the Heart of Suffolk, and throughout the area is evidence of significant wealth from times past, with large, imposing churches and fine architecture within the villages.The River Stour contributed to the woollen cloth and other industries as it was used for transporting goods such as coal, bricks, lime and corn.
An Act of Parliament was passed in 1705, making the river naviagable from Sudbury to Manningtree and it must of been a busy place with many weirs and locks to help vessels pass through. The right for light craft to navigate the river still remains today and an annual event ‘Sudbury to the Sea’ which is organised by the River Stour Trust, ensures that the river remains navigable for the 24.5 miles from Sudbury to the Cattawade Barrier.
Visitors can enjoy boat trips on electric boats owned by the River Stour Trust, which go from Sudbury to Great Henny and Flatford to Dedham. Travelling by boat on the River Stour is a wonderful way to explore the area and enjoy the wildlife and peace of the river that flows gently through some beautiful countryside.