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Posts Tagged ‘essex’

No, not a policeman, but archetypal rural riverside England as depicted by one of our greatest artists

Manningtree to Dedham and Flatford Mill, Essex/Suffolk border

Flatford Mill pond as depicted by Constable

Flatford Mill pond as depicted in The Hay Wain (click to compare with Constable's painting)

Many years ago, a school trip took me to the National Gallery in London. Amongst the priceless collection was one painting which really captured my imagination: The Hay Wain, a depiction of a long-lost rural scene in the English countryside. The work of John Constable, the setting for The Hay Wain was the mill pond at Flatford Mill, owned by Constable’s father, and not far from where Constable was born and raised in East Bergholt in the Stour Valley. I bought a postcard of Constable’s painting, which remained blu-tacked to my bedroom wall for years after. Every now and then I would study it closely, marvelling at the detail conveyed by the artist: the foliage on the trees, the light captured in the cloudy sky and the rippling reflections in the water of the mill pond. Aware that Constable depicted a real location in his painting, Flatford Mill was somewhere I had in the back of my mind to visit for years. I finally got there on this walk, which also took in the meandering River Stour, the historic village of Dedham, and, as has become the pattern on recent walks, a country church or two. Although it lacks the dramatic views of, say, the South Downs, the gently rolling countryside around and about – part of Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – is stunningly beautiful nonetheless.

Start/Finish: Manningtree Station TM094322

Length: 8½ miles/4 hours

How to get there: Manningtree is on the line between London and Ipswich/Norwich, served by direct NXEA trains from Liverpool Street, taking around an hour either way.

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