Manningtree Circular CONSTABLE

The Artist's Paintings come to Life

Lawford Dedham Stratford E. Bergholt Flatford Features Postscript Read Me


This circular walk of slightly less than 11 miles takes us through a significant part of English Heritage, namely the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which is Constable Country - Dedham Vale. We shall visit places which feature in Constable's paintings, namely Dedham, Stratford St Mary, East Bergholt (Constable's birthplace) and of course Flatford Mill with Willy Lot's Cottage of Hay Wain fame.

The southern half of our walk from Manningtree through Dedham follows the Essex Way.

In Flatford we find Willy Lot's cottage which dates from the 16th-century. This is Constable's "Hay Wain" picture - in today's real life without the hay wain (hay wagon) but with more trees to the right of Willy Lott's cottage compared to the view depicted in Constable's painting.

Picturesque Dedham with the Marlborough Head pub (the erstwhile Wool Exchange) is a good place for lunch, and Flatford Mill of "Hay Wain" fame is a nice place for a traditional afternoon English tea (as you would expect in Constable Country!).

These pictures are a selection of ones I have taken at several times of the year, over a succession of years. The pictures provide a small preview of what you will see and experience on the walk. After the walk you can come back to them to see how many of the scenes you recognise as ones you have enjoyed - albeit perhaps at a time of year different from that in which I originally took the pictures!

This is what you will see here. Enjoy your browse!

Lawford (Essex)

On leaving Manningtree Station we strike uphill to the large village of Lawford and its Grade I listed 14th-century parish Church of St Mary. The church's internal stonework received some attention from Cromwell's troops, but luckily, sufficient artwork survived to the present day. There is a view from the churchyard to the river estuary towards the east.

Here is Lawford Church, at least some of whose internal stone masonry survived the destruction inflicted by Cromwell's soldiers.

Dedham (Essex)

Picturesque Dedham on the River Stour is in the heart of "Constable Country" and on the Essex/Suffolk border. The High Street has many picturesque houses and also includes Sherman's House with its connections to Sherman of American Tank fame. Dedham Parish Church of Saint Mary the Virgin dates from the late 15th century, and is a mediaeval 'wool church'. The "Marlborough Head" pub was the former Wool Exchange and is a good place for lunch.

On the Way to Dedham along part of the Essex Way.

Dedham Church in the Distance

On the Way to Dedham. A new age half-timbered house looks pretty with the garden flowers.

The Main Entrance to Dedham Church. Old wood, new flowers.

Dedham High Street

Dedham High Street

Dedham - Former Wool Exchange, now the Marlborough Head Pub

Dedham Church

In Dedham Church. A stone memorial to a long forgotten local dignitary has been smoothed by the feet of ages - the feet of worshippers and visitors.

Sherman's House - Sherman of American Tank fame.

Stratford Saint Mary (Suffolk)

Stratford St. Mary is just within Suffolk, and with its immediate surroundings, provided the subjects for a number of Constable's paintings. Saint Mary's church dates mainly from the 14th and 15th centuries.

Stratford Saint Mary has a number of interesting half-timbered houses, including this one.

Here is a traditional "mile stone".

We pass some more ...

... half-timbered houses.

Stratford Saint Mary Church

East Bergholt (Suffolk)

Constable was born in East Bergholt. The Church of St Mary the Virgin dates from the 15th and 16th centuries. However, the church is still waiting for funding from Cardinal Wolsey to complete the tower for the bells. Although work on the tower began in 1525, the church had to be content with a "temporary" wooden bell cage, constructed in 1531 after Cardinal Wolsey "fell from grace" - he displeased Henry VIII.

East Bergholt Church - Constable's parish church. The rebuilding of the church's bell tower is still waiting for approval of funding from Cardinal Wolseley.

And here is the "temporary" bell cage!

Flatford (Suffolk)

The small hamlet of Flatford is near East Bergholt. The Grade I listed Flatford Mill on the River Stour dates from 1733 and belonged to John Constable's father. Close by is Willy Lot's Cottage, which features in John Constable's famous picture, the "Hay Wain" (Hay Wagon). Manningtree Station in Essex can easily be reached on foot from Flatford. So ends a short excursion into English history. I hope, dear reader, that you enjoyed it!

Flatford Mill

Here is the world-famous Willy Lot's Cottage at Flatford. The trees have grown since Constable's time, but Constable lives!


Constable Country is shared by Essex and Suffolk and can easily be reached from Manningtree railway station. So, whatever the season, put on those walking boots and pack your camera, and enjoy what this beautiful and historical part of England has to offer!