Walking from Manningtree Station to Flatford Mill, Dedham Vale, Essex/Suffolk. Location map

This walk can be completed in 45 minutes at a brisk pace. For a more leisurely pace allow 60-75 minutes. It is an easy walk and very well signposted so you don't really even need a map. Follow the same route in reverse to return to Manningtree Station.

There is a little gem of a map entitled 'Constable Country Walks' which, I understand from the publishers, is now available from the Buffet at Manningtree Station. This map covers the Constable Country area between Manningtree, Flatford, East Bergholt and Dedham. It shows the public footpaths, places of interest and the places from where John Constable painted his pictures. I highly recommend this map especially at the price of £1.50 (in 2009). For those who may wish to walk in this area but are travelling by car you can get it from the Tourist Information Centre at Flatford.

The walk

When you come out of Manningtree Station you will be facing the car park across the roadway. A little to your left, on the far side of the road, are some steps down to the car park. Go down the steps into the car park and turn right along to the narrow neck that goes into the next section of car park. Go through the narrow part and turn left. At the back of the car park there is a short footpath through to a wide dirt track. Turn right onto this track. This section of the path, even though we had had some heavy rain recently, was quite dry.

At the first juction , turn right, through the red brick arch under the railway. Follow the next straight section of track to a left bend. This section of the track had many puddles and shallow muddy patches so this is where your stout footwear could be useful. Go left round the bend to another straight section which is moderately grassy with some bare dirt strips worn in it.

At the end of this section, turn right to reach a kissing gate. Follow the well defined path leading to the river bank. Turn left through another kissing gate and follow the obvious path along the river bank. This section of the path, in the summer, is wide enough for one person only with a profusion of plants growing along each side. Some of these plants are Thistles and Stinging Nettles so watch out if you have bare legs. You will eventually reach a junction with an obvious signpost where you should turn right towards Flatford. Shortly after turning right you will reach a steel gate with a set of steel steps welded onto the bars of the gate, at the hinge end, which act as a stile to allow you to climb over and continue on the path.

You will soon hear the sound of water rushing over a weir and will see Flatford Mill on the far side of the river. In a very short time you will arrive at Flatford Bridge having also passed a lock and The Granary Barn. Immediately on the other side of the bridge is Bridge Cottage which houses a Constable exhibition. Turning right at the end of the cottage and following the lane will take you past the other side of the Granary Barn, Valley Farm and Flatford Mill. The lane eventually runs into the mill grounds where you will be able to see Willie Lott's Cottage.

At Flatford there are toilets and a 'Tea Garden' which serves light refreshments including baked potatoes with a choice of filling, soup, sandwiches, tea and coffee etc. I haven't tried the food but it looks to be a nice little place.

There is also an Information Centre at Flatford which can be contacted on:

Telephone: (0)1206 299460. Fax: (0)1206 399973.
E-mail: flatfordvic@babergh.gov.uk

Extending the walk

You could also walk from Flatford to East Bergholt and the church where John Constable's parents and Willie Lott are buried. John Constable also had his first studio here. The extra distance will be about 1 mile in each direction and should take no more than 30 minutes walking time each way at a leisurely pace.

From Flatford Bridge walk straight past Bridge Cottage and up the lane ahead of you (don't turn right at the cottage) to a T-junction where you should turn left going past an obvious car park entrance on your left. Follow the lane, with views left over Dedham Vale in places, until you see East Bergholt Church ahead of you. To reach Constable's first studio and to see where the Constable family once lived turn left at the church along The Street.

Return to Flatford, and thence to Manningtree, back the way you came.