Britain’s Best Getaways: Constable Country, Suffolk and Essex
You might wonder where Constable Country is in Britain, and you’d be right to wonder since Constable Country isn’t one place. It’s actually a group of places located on the Suffolk and Essex border. The term ‘Constable Country’ comes from the area’s affiliation with John Constable, notable English Romantic painter born in 1776, who had a certain affection for the area. Of the area, John said that it “made me a painter, and I am grateful”; “the sound of water escaping from mill dams etc., willows, old rotten planks, slimy posts, and brickwork, I love such things.”
With John’s works currently being celebrated at the Victoria and Albert museum in London, at exhibition ‘Constable: The Making of a Master’, what better time than now to explore the area known as Constable Country!
Psst be sure to read to the end of this guide because we’ve got a surprise that we think you will like!
Start at East Bergholt – This village in Suffolk, just north of Essex on the banks of the River Stour, is where John Constable was born and an area John would routinely return to every summer in his later years. Take a trip to St Mary’s Church and check out its famous bell tower, notable – as well as for its wooden bell cage – for having bells which are not chimed with ropes in the normal way you would expect, but rather upside down and rung by hand!
Next, to Flatford Mill – The grade 1 listed mill used to be owned by John’s father and was captured in many of John’s paintings including ‘The Haywain and the Mill’. Spend a relaxing time walking the paths and gazing at the natural waterside and the local rural landscapes. Stop by Bridge Cottage, a charming hamlet nearby which inspired John and featured in painting ‘the Hay Wain’ and ‘Boatbuilding near Flatford Mill’. Step inside and enjoy the cottage’s own free Constable exhibition. Next up, let John Constable take you along the River Stour. No, not the real John Constable, but rather the Edwardian-style boat named after the painter! Or perhaps you prefer to float along the river on Francis J instead? The choice is yours. The River Stour Trust takes trips once a day; seating is limited on the boats, so be sure to book in advance. The trip includes a delicious slice of cake and a cup of tea. Lovely! For more information, click here. On return, be sure to pop into The Granary and enjoy some respite in their riverside Tea Room. (To see a Tate Modern interactive map of the area showing approximate positions from which many of John’s paintings were created, so that you can really stand in his footsteps and see the landscape as John did, click here.)
Onto Dedham Vale – This area of outstanding natural beauty greatly inspired John Constable and was the subject of a number of John’s paintings including ‘Houses in Dedham’, ‘Dedham Lock and Mill’ and ‘Dedham Vale’. Savour this captivating landscape by taking a walk down the Stour Valley Path and experience the rolling farmland, rivers, meadows and farmlands for yourself. Alternatively, you could take a relaxing cycle through Dedham Vale. Lastly, drop into the Dedham Vale Arts and Crafts centre for a refreshing tea and snacks on the ground floor of a converted church.
Lastly, end your journey at Christchurch Mansion and Wolsey Art Gallery, on the edge of Ipswich, Suffolk. This gallery has the largest collection of John Constable’s work outside of London, so it’s a nice cherry to end your journey with, and admission is free!
See the brooding yet beautiful nature of Constable Country for yourself with this getaway. For more information about Constable Country, and to plan your trip, click here.
Enjoy your getaway to Constable Country!
Need somewhere to stay? Maison Talbooth is only a ten minute drive from the heart of Constable Country! This Victorian country house hotel overlooks the River Stour and mixes a relaxed elegance with contemporary style. Its luxurious bathrooms, pool house and pampering spa treatments will leave you feeling well rested after your days out exploring Constable Country. Or if you fancy some adrenaline during your stay, why not have a spot of tennis with your partner in the venue’s tennis courts? Maison Talbooth will even provide you with a map of Constable Country’s points of interest when you stay with them!
Milsom Hotels & Restaurants is also currently offering (in conjunction with the Victoria and Albert Museum) the chance to win a two night stay at Maison Talbooth and an exclusive visit to Aspalls, home of Aspall cyder and vinegar. All you have to do is click here, answer the question and if your name is chosen, you could be enjoying a wonderful trip for two in Constable Country! Good luck!
Flatford Mill image by Karen Roe