Art at the Heart of Exploring the Dedham Vale

One of the best ways of appreciating a painting is to visit the landscape that inspired the artist, and the Dedham Vale is one such ‘outstanding’ place.

The area inspired John Constable (1776–1837), 200 years ago, to create some of this country’s most iconic landscape paintings, and art is still at the heart of the Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and Stour Valley project area. The cultural heritage of the area makes it nationally important and we can still recognise today not just the landscapes of Constable but of Thomas Gainsborough (1729-1788), John Nash (1893-1977) and Sir Alfred Munnings (1878-1959) too.

Taking a stroll, or a longer walk, on the same lanes as Constable is a great way to immerse yourself in the cultural landscape and improve your sense of place and wellbeing at the same time! ‘Constable Country’ is on the Suffolk/Essex border, at the point where River Stour valley meets Stour estuary, and to encourage everyone to explore the area the Dedham Vale AONB has developed free walking guides. Take your pick of Walking In Constable Country or Walking in Dedham (other titles to follow!) and seek out those views and feelings that led John Constable to write in 1821: “I should paint my own places best; painting is but another word for feeling. I associate “my careless boyhood’’… …to all that lies on the banks of the ‘Stour’. They made me a painter (& I am grateful)”.

The popular ‘Visitor’s Guide To Constable Country in the Dedham Vale’ has also been relaunched, and in recognition of the importance of the Dedham artist Sir Alfred Munnings, one of his paintings of the River Stour is on the cover. This painting, A Barge on the Stour at Dedham (c1930), can be seen on display at the Munnings Art Museum at Dedham, along with a whole series of his paintings inspired by the area. The exhibition, called “Munnings and the River”, runs until 29 October 2017,, and you can take part in creative workshops and events. You can also join one of the regular guided walks by The National Trust at Flatford or with The River Runs Through Us whose walks are being led by artists.

Inside the Dedham Vale AONB walk and visitor’s guides are a wealth of information about enjoying the area, highlights of what to look out for and where to find all these cultural connections. These leaflets and many others are available to download for free from

You could even take inspiration yourself… take a photo, sketch the river-scape, or create a poem... in celebration of this outstanding landscape.

This news release was first published as part of an Explore the Stour Valley article in the Archant Suffolk Magazine July 2017.

By Cathy Smith on August 4th, 2017

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