Stour Navigation, Suffolk and Essex
Best for: Artistic inspiration While canals in other parts of the country were all about powering the Industrial Revolution, in the east they were focused on agriculture. Beamy (ywide) boats propelled by sail and horse took produce from farms down to the sea for onward transport to London. Hay and straw for the capital’s horse-powered transport was a major cargo, as was the manure and human ‘night soil’ brought back to spread on the fields.
Walk the footpath from Manningtree on a seven-mile round trip through Flatford and Dedham and you’ll enter a waterscape little changed since John Constable painted here in the late 18th century. Walking beside the Stour connects you to the locations of many of his most famous works, including The White Horse, Boat Building and Flatford Mill. And with Flatford being a National Trust property, there’s a good tearoom, too.