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Eastern England - The Stour Valley

top 10 places

Top 100 places to visit in eastern england

The Stour Valley

1. Bridge Cottage, Flatford

Bridge Cottage is a 16th century thatched cottage in the heart of beautiful Dedham Vale, a quintessentially English rural landscape. It is famous for being the location for many of the artist John Constable's idyllic pastoral paintings, many of which can be seen in the National Gallery, and is home to an exhibition on the artist. Short guided tours of the major Constable painting sites at Flatford are available. There are a variety of walks along the River Stour and a beautiful riverside tea-room.

2. Gainsborough’s House, Sudbury

One of England's greatest and best loved painters, Thomas Gainsborough (1727 - 1788) was as much a master of landscape as portraits. The collection at Gainsborough's House includes fine paintings, drawings and etchings from throughout Gainsborough's career. A print workshop located in a converted coach house offers day and evening printmaking courses, and life drawing classes are also available. Facilities include a gift shop and tea room.

3. The Sir Alfred Munnings Art Museum, Dedham

The Sir Alfred Munnings Art Museum is a gem in the heart of the Suffolk countryside. Renowned for his equestrian paintings and depictions of the East Anglian landscape, Sir Alfred Munnings (1878 – 1949) lived and painted at Castle House for 40 years of his life. Castle House, part Tudor part Georgian, restored and with original Munnings' furniture, exhibits over 200 of Munnings' works representing his life's work, is augmented by private loans each season.

4. Dedham Art and Craft Centre

This beautifully converted church is one of East Anglia's leading Craft Centres. Dedham Art and Craft Centre is situated in the heart of Constable Country on the Essex/Suffolk border. Housed in a converted church in this popular village, the Centre exudes historic charm and is the perfect place to visit, shop and eat. Three floors showcase the work of more than 30 artisans and the inspired buying skills of specialist retailers – a paradise to explore for the casual browser and enthusiastic shopper.

5. Lavenham Guildhall

The Guildhall of Corpus Christi is a Tudor building built in 1530, situated in the heart of the remarkably preserved medieval village of Lavenham. It’s a stunning timber-framed building containing a local history museum with exhibitions on the medieval cloth industry, traditional farming practices and local history. A tranquil walled garden grows dye plants used since the Middle Ages that produce colours that are bright even for today, and dressing-up boxes and trail books for children.

6. The Stour Valley Path

One of the best ways to experience the countryside that John Constable knew and loved is to walk around the picturesque Stour Valley. The 60 mile Stour Valley Path is a waymarked route from Newmarket to Cattawade that can be split up into convenient sections for day walking. By following in the footsteps of Constable you’ll have a better appreciation of the trees, rivers, sounds and light captured on canvass by one of the greatest British painters of all time.

7. Melford Hall

Melford Hall is one of East Anglia's finest Tudor mansions and most celebrated Elizabethan houses. Regency, Georgian and Victorian rooms chart the tastes of the Hyde Parker family, who have lived here since 1786. A naval family, the house is filled with reminders of their history including nautical paintings and even plunder looted from a Spanish ship in 1762. During World War II, Melford was home to British soldiers who spearheaded the assualt on Gold Beach during the D-Day landings.

8. Stoke-by-Nayland

Stoke-by-Nayland is a picturesque village situated on a ridge overlooking the Stour Valley. With it's pastel painted, half timbered cottages and the pretty St Mary's Church, Stoke-by-Nayland is a lovely place to spend a few hours. The church boasts a medieval Jesse Tree, depicting the ancestors of Christ. St Mary's was also one of the painter John Constable's favourite subjects. Nearby pub, the Angel, is renowned for it's food and cosy ensuite rooms.

9. John Constable’s Paintings Guided Walks

Explore Constable country on the Suffolk/Essex border to see the landscapes that inspired the painter. Guided tours and walks of Flatford, Flatford Mill and Willy Lott’s Cottage and other rural scenes made famous by the paintings of John Constable, are run by the National Trust in the summer months. There's also a special 4-mile Constable walk from Manningtree station to Flatford Cottage. It's a relaxing way to spend an afternoon and a must for all art fans.

10. Kentwell Hall

Take a glimpse into both the past and present at Kentwell Hall Gardens and Farm. Surrounded by a moat, and with gardens containing ancient yew trees and a 17th century walled garden, the house presents an interesting mix of periods, from Tudor to the present day. Award-winning Re-Creations of Tudor or WWII Everyday Life take place in the summer, as well as special events such as concerts and theatre. A rare breeds farm has animals including Longhorn cattle and Norfolk Horn sheep.
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