Known as an area of outstanding beauty, Flatford and Dedham Vale have so much to offer to anyone looking for a relaxing day out. Set amongst the unspoilt countryside of Dedham Vale in Suffolk, the River Stour runs through the beautiful landscape and by the historic buildings in Flatford. The area has become particularly iconic because of the paintings created here by the famous artist John Constable. Whether you are looking for a country walk, a visit to the museum or a boat ride along the river there is certainly something here for everyone.
As you first walk into Flatford you are greeted by the Wildlife Garden, where visitors can enjoy looking for wildlife amongst the beautiful gardens. You can then visit The Bridge Cottage Exhibition, which is a small and free of charge museum where you can learn about John Constable's work and the history of the buildings. The Riverside Tea Room is also just next door to the cottage which is a perfect place for food and drink whilst you sit beside the river and watch the boats go by. Tea is £1.60 and there is a selection of cakes to choose from for £2 and over. There are also plenty of picnic tables situated in picture perfect spots around the river if you have brought your own food with you.
The bridge situated by the Bridge Cottage gives you beautiful views of the area and leads you to walks through the countryside and towards Flatford lock. There is also a range of walks around the buildings which are shown by sign posts. These walks take you through the rolling hills of the English countryside, where you can walk past wildlife and stop for a picnic on a summer's day. Some of the historic buildings are not open to the public, but guided walks can be booked if you wish. Mobility vehicles are also available.
To explore the beauty of the river, environmentally-friendly electric riverboat rides are offered from April to October. Trips that are available are either a 30 minute trip at Flatford or a one way trip from Flatford to Dedham. However, rowing boats are also available to hire by the bridge, which are exceptionally fun and romantic. Rowing boats require a £10 deposit and are either £8 for an hour or £5 per half hour to rent.
As you make your way along the river you will come to Flatford Mill and Willy Lott's House. These buildings are in the beautiful location where John Constable's famous painting known as 'The Hay Wain' was painted. Willy Lott's House is a 16th-Century, Grade I listed cottage and it's definitely worth a visit.
The Flatford Mill Centre, on the other hand, offers short painting courses throughout the year for anyone at any age. If you look between Willy Lott's House and the Mill you are able to see the direct view of John Constable's famous 'The Hay Wain' painting. This painting was created here by Constable hundreds of years ago and therefore you are able to spot many differences in how the landscape has changed during the years.
If you would like to stay overnight by the river then there is also a hotel offering bed and breakfast that has rooms looking out to the river. The Granary hotel is a restored cottage which was once owned by John Constable's father and is undoubtedly filled with character.
Overall, Flatford with its charming settings and historic buildings is definitely worth a visit. Admission to view this beautiful landscape and the historic buildings is free, although it will cost you £3 to park onsite. If you have the time, however, it is a 30 minute walk to the free car park from the village.