Dedham High Street

Constable Country

On the outskirts of Colchester you will find the Dedham Vale, and within that the area affectionately known as Constable Country: an area of natural beauty which inspired great English painters.

As the only designated area of natural beauty in Essex, you can view the scenes which inspired famous English artists like 19th Century landscape painter John Constable, 18th century artist Thomas Gainsborough and 20th Century equestrian artist Sir Alfred Munnings.
Dedham Vale - Constable Country. Photo: Visit Essex

Things to do in Constable Country

Dedham

Dedham is one of the most attractive villages in Essex and closely associated with the quintessentially English landscape painter John Constable. The historic church of St Mary the Virgin dominates the High Street and features in several of Constable's paintings. Dedham has continued to prove a magnet for painters and just outside the village is Castle House, former home of the painter Sir Alfred Munnings and now a museum dedicated to his life and work.

The High Street also boasts other attractions; along with a number of delightful small shops you will find the Essex Rose Tearooms, owned by famous jam company Wilkins of Tiptree, this is the perfect place to stop for morning tea or coffee, accompanied of course by scones and Wilkin's own Little Scarlet strawberry jam. Alternatively The Sun Hotel and the Marlborough Head both offer morning coffee as does the Dedham Arts and Crafts Centre.

Dedham Church
Dedham Boathouse

The River Stour

Flowing from Sudbury in the West, through Dedham, Flatford and Manningtree and onto Ipswich in the East the River Stour is a scenic and charming waterway, once again immortalised on numerous occasions by John Constable. Hire a rowing boat in Dedham and explore the river, or take a less energetic trip on an electric boat trip from Flatford. Kayaking, and even wild swimming are also possible.

If messing about on the river is not for you, simply enjoy a scenic walk along the banks and take in the scenery. Picturesque locks, as well as breathtaking views of the stunning landscape can be found along the waterside trails.

 

Flatford

Continue the Constable theme by visiting a National Trust property: Flatford Bridge Cottage. Flatford Mill and Willy Lott's House, immortalised in "The Haywain", can be seen from the outside and a short walk along the banks of the river Stour rewards you with views of untouched Constable landscapes. Like Dedham, Flatford welcomes huge numbers of visitors each year, so avoid the crowds by visiting at quieter, off peak periods, such as the winter or during the week.

Flatford Bridge Cottage

Keep it Special - Top Tips for Visiting Constable Country

Visitor's Guide to Constable Country
Download the Guide to Constable Country for Top Tips on visiting the area.

The Dedham Vale has the official status of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and welcomes huge numbers of visitors over the course of a year. Whilst these numbers of visitors can bring many benefits to local businesses they also bring pressures to local host communities and to the environment.

The villages of Dedham, East Bergholt and Flatford, the area known as Constable Country, are very popular with visitors. In order to help your group get the best out of their visit and to protect the environment as far as possible we recommend the following tips:

  • Park coaches and drop off/pick up passengers in designated car/coach parks
  • Switch off coach engines when the coach is parked
  • Encourage your group to support local businesses
  • Avoid the crowds by visiting at quieter, off-peak times
  • Encourage your group to respect the privacy of people who live and work in these small communities
  • Encourage your group to respect the environment and wildlife; most of the area is privately owned and farmed land
  • Employ the services of a fully qualified Colchester and District Guide to show you around the area
  • Give your group time in the area to explore on foot, there is a pleasant, easy walk between Dedham and Flatford for example.
  • Find out more information on the Dedham Vale and Stour Valley AONB website.