Suffolk Jewels – Stour Valley, Dedham Vale & Brett Valley
We have a suggestion for a day out on a route taking you through some of Suffolk’s most famous and beautiful countryside.
Our starting point is at the National Trust site of Flatford, just a short distance from East Bergholt, birthplace of the artist John Constable.
Flatford, a tiny hamlet on the River Stour, is just down a narrow, winding and leafy lane from East Bergholt and was the scene of some of Constable’s most famous paintings of the Dedham Vale countryside.
Two of the most famous paintings are the Hay Wain, featuring Willy Lott’s Cottage, which you can still see at Flatford, and Boatbuilding near Flatford Mill.
There’s plenty to see and do with exhibitions about Constable in Bridge Cottage or by contemporary artists in the Boat House Gallery. Perhaps take a self-guided walk with the guidebook finding the ‘Hay Wain’ view, or a guided walk with a Trust volunteer, available between 12 noon and 2 pm. Then back to a refreshing cuppa in the Riverside tearooms.
East Bergholt is no more than a few minutes away from Flatford and perfect for a spot of sightseeing and lunch.
Not to be missed is the famous Bell Cage at the parish church of St Mary in the centre of the village.
In 1525, work had been started on building a bell tower for the church, with the help of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey. However, his downfall in 1530 put a stop to the work and the Bell Cage was built as a temporary measure until the funds could be found to continue. They never were and the bells are still in the cage in the churchyard.
The bells are still rung to this day and are swung by pure force of hand applied directly to a wooden headstock and not by rope and wheel.
Take the A1070 out of East Bergholt under the A12 and enjoy a leisurely and relaxing half hour drive through the Dedham Vale villages of Holton St Mary and Raydon then into the Brett Valley through Lower Layham and into the Market town of Hadleigh whose High Street is almost a mile long and lined with many independent small shops for a happy afternoon’s browsing.
Once the centre of the area’s wool trade, many of these building were once either weavers’ cottages or merchants’ houses and almost 90% are listed.
Two interesting features among many in the town centre are the ancient medieval Guildhall, now used for a variety of events and offering cream teas during the summer. Behind the Guildhall is a walk through the churchyard surrounding St Mary’s Church with its great gatehouse called the Deanery Tower which dates back to 1495 and is Grade 1 listed.
You can also walk along the River Brett from one end of the town to the other behind the High Street and maybe round off the day with an evening meal in one of the many restaurants or pubs.
If you have visitors staying from other parts of the country or even the world why not relax and enjoy a day out in comfort in this beautiful part of Suffolk transported by us, Superb Travel Suffolk.