church-and-paddocks-at-long-melfordThe East Anglian county of Suffolk is steeped in the history of England, and in the south is Constable Country, so named because it provided the source and inspiration for the work of the painter John Constable.

As an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Constable Country continues to inspire contemporary visitors. With plenty of self-catering holiday cottages, it’s a beautiful destination for experiencing some of the best of England.

The Scene of the Hay Wain

Constable’s most famous painting is the Hay Wain, where he created the unforgettable image of a horse and cart crossing the River Stour. You can visit the actual location and experience Constable’s inspiration for yourself at Flatford.

This is like walking into a painting, the landscape and buildings are so vividly real. The white cottage is there, and Flatford Mill, which Constable’s family once owned.

There’s guided trail that can take you through the scenes as painted by Constable – he also painted Boat-Building Near Flatford Mill and nine others in this area.

You can also take a closer look at the buildings from the Hay Wain, now under the National Trust’s custodianship.

Dedham Vale and Stour Valley

Dedham Vale is another of Constable’s most famous paintings, and its idyllic setting is accessible by taking one of various Dedham Walks in the area.

The area is home to picturesque villages such as Stratford St Mary and Stoke-by-Nayland, as well as Dedham itself, and Flatford.

The Stour Valley Path, first established in 1994, is divided into ten different sections of varying lengths, allowing you to explore the stunning countryside and visit areas rich in historical relevance and detail.

The entire route is 60 miles in length, running from close to the source of the River Stour at Newmarket to Cattawade.

The 8.5 mile route between Clare and Long Melford takes in Clare Castle, Long Melford Church, originally built in 1484 then rebuilt after the Reformation, and the brick Tudor Mansion of Melford Hall. Cavendish, along the route, is also the location of the first Sue Ryder nursing home, dating from 1953, created for concentration camp survivors of World War Two.

The final stretch of the Stour Valley Path, from Stratford St Mary to Cattawade, takes in Constable Country, including the painter’s birthplace at East Bergholt. At Dedham you’ll appreciate the Tudor and Georgian architecture, and the church of St Mary’s, location of one of Constable’s religious paintings.

Cycling on the Painters’ Trail

As well as walks and sightseeing, there are plenty of cycling routes in Constable Country.

The Painters’ Trail is a 69 mile long route through Dedham Vale. It comprises three one-day cycle rides along well-worn tracks, paths and quiet, rural roads. It’s both invigorating and serene, taking in many places of interest along the way.

The first route on the Painters’ Trail is circular, from Bures, along quiet country roads and is around 18 miles. The next 16 miles of route runs down the Stour Valley to the river’s estuary and offers the option of departing from Manningtree railway station on completion. The final part of the trail is another 18 miles, through Constable Country, and is a circular.
This large, picturesque area of the Suffolk countryside offers an unforgettable outdoor experience of rural England at its most captivating.