Southern England – Constable Country, Essex
Distance: 11km/7 miles
Type: River valley
Where: Circular walk from Dedham via Flatford and Manningtree.
Start/End: Dedham Car Park, Mill Lane (TM058334).
Terrain: Firm paths and farm tracks, with some trails over fields. Numerous stiles, latch gates and bridle gates.
Maps: OS Explorer 196; Landranger 168.
Ramblers volunteer Fred Matthews – who died last year, aged 85 – was a veteran campaigner for footpaths in Essex. As well as organising an annual 160km/100-mile walk round the county’s rights of way to make sure the council was doing its job, he pioneered the creation of the 130km/81-mile Essex Way in 1972, writing the route’s first guidebook. The Epping-to-Harwich footpath is now an Essex institution, and this circular walk includes a stretch of it that goes through Dedham Vale and the Stour Valley AONB, in the area known as Constable Country. Its picturesque water meadows and gentle rolling hills have been a magnet for artists over the centuries, and little seems to have changed since the days of the painter John Constable, who was born locally. The tranquility of the countryside depicted in The Haywain is as real today as when he painted it nearly 200 years ago. Bridge Cottage at Flatford has been transformed into a small museum dedicated to the artist’s work. Constable, however, is not the area’s only artistic son. Behind the village of Dedham stands the grand property once occupied by the painter Sir Alfred Munnings, now run as a museum, housing a large collection of his paintings, including some of horses and horse fairs – his favourite subjects.
Click below to see a route profile and view the route on an Ordnance Survey map