Con­sta­ble coun­try

Stour Val­ley, Suf­folk

Countryfile Magazine - - Contents -

Few scenes are as closely as­so­ci­ated with an artist than the Stour Val­ley, on the bor­ders of Es­sex and Suf­folk, are with the Ro­man­tic land­scape artist John Con­sta­ble As Con­sta­ble (1776-1837). ad­mit­ted in later life: “I as­so­ci­ate my care­less boy­hood with all that lies on the banks of the Stour. Those scenes made me a painter.”

And surely noth­ing en­cap­su­lates the English ru­ral idyll as well as Con­sta­ble’s bu­colic land­scapes, painted around his home at East Bergholt. For many peo­ple, his Hay­wain, Ded­ham Vale and Willy Lott’s Cot­tage paint­ings rep­re­sent the per­fect English scene, with bub­bling clouds chas­ing the sun­light over billowing elms and dis­tant views of sturdy church tow­ers.

ACROSS THE RIVER

An easy cir­cu­lar seven-mile stroll through the Ded­ham Vale Area of Out­stand­ing Nat­u­ral Beauty vis­its the lo­ca­tions of many of Con­sta­ble’s most mem­o­rable art­works.

The walk be­gins in the shadow of the large, Per­pen­dic­u­lar tower of Ded­ham’s par­ish church, wit­ness to the pros­per­ity of the 15th-cen­tury wool trade. Con­sta­ble at­tended the Rev Thomas Grim­wood’s gram­mar school here, walk­ing the mile through the water mead­ows and across the Stour from his home in East Bergholt ev­ery day.

Fol­low the river­side path along the Stour to Flat­ford Mill and Willy Lott’s cot­tage, scene of per­haps Con­sta­ble’s most fa­mous paint­ing and now the site of a free Na­tional Trust ex­hi­bi­tion on the artist’s life and work. Art classes for would-be Con­sta­bles are reg­u­larly held here and there’s a con­ve­nient teashop.

Con­tinue on the river­side path for about half a mile, then turn left on a lane that leads up­hill into East Bergholt, where the un­fin­ished tower of the Per­pen­dic­u­lar church re­sulted in the build­ing of the un­usual 16th-cen­tury sep­a­rate ‘bell cage’ in the church­yard. Un­for­tu­nately, Con­sta­ble’s house is no longer there, but his stu­dio still ex­ists in a mansard-roofed cot­tage on the main street.

THROUGH THE FIELDS

Turn left in the vil­lage and then right on to a path sign­posted Ded­ham to cross the Stour by a mill, then fol­low the foot­steps of Con­sta­ble’s “care­less boy­hood” through the fields to re­turn to Ded­ham.

Where to see the art: Con­sta­ble’s art­work can be seen for free at the Walk Through Bri­tish Art ex­hi­bi­tion at Tate Bri­tain, Mill­bank, Lon­don.

MAIN Flat­ford Mill (oil on canvas) c1816-1817, by John Con­sta­ble (1776-1837), Cour­tesy of Tate INSET Ded­ham as it ap­pears to­day

Roly Smith has writ­ten more than 30 books about walk­ing and the coun­try­side.

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