Route details, maps, pubs, features, local history and folklore for a wide variety of walks focusing primarily on Norfolk and Suffolk

Saturday, 26 January 2019

Flatford Mill Circular Walk

View of Constables Haywain

An 11 mile Walk along the River Stour incorporating sections of the Stour Valley Path, the Essex Way and St Edmund's Way

Flatford Mill is the idyllic English country scene encapsulated by John Constables renowned paintings including the instantly recognizable 'Haywain'. This circular route is an exceptional walk by all accounts and the perfect way to engross oneself in this landscape that sits on the Suffolk and Essex border.

Flatford Mill Circular Walk - Essential Information

Walk Statistics:

Start point
Cattawade View in OS Map | View in Google Map
End Point
Cattawade View in OS Map | View in Google Map
Total Walk distance
11 miles
Walk difficulty
Riverside paths, footpaths and some road walking.
The route crosses the main line to Ipswich with a simple foot crossing. Care should be taken to be certain that no trains are approaching on this long straight section of track.


The following maps and services can assist in navigating this route. The links include published hard copy as well as online plots and downloadable GPX route data for importing into navigational software and apps.

Ordnance Survey Explorer Map
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Ordnance Survey Explorer Map
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Online Ordnance Survey Route
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Online OpenStreetMap Route
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Online Google Route
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ViewRanger App Route
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GPX data for route (download)

Walk Data

Date of Walk
Walk Time
10:30 to 15:30
Griffmonster, Kat
Weather Conditions
Bright sunny spring day with plenty of sunshine

Walk Notes

Why start a walk at Flatford Mill? This is a worthy feature but the encounter is so much better if one walks to it. There is a free car park at Cattawade Country Park which served as a good starting point. The fact that this is a circular walk enables several start/finish locations in addition to this choice. Manningtree station car park offers plenty all day parking and providing its a weekend the charges are not excessive. Dedham also has a free car park but once again this is so much better a place to get to rather than to start and end.

It had been a long cold and wet winter and the superb spring sunshine held a lot of promise for the year to come. However, the effects of the winters downpours were still evident with plenty of flooded meadows between Cattawade and Flatford. It was still possible to walk the pathway although there were some decidedly marshy areas.

Flatford Mill and the surrounding cottages and buildings are a mighty fine sight to witness. This is a National Trust property but it is free to wander through on the public rights of way. Probably every single visitor wanders around to the mill pond in front of Willy Lott's house to snap a photo from the same position as Constable painted his famous 'Haywain' scene. This has somewhat changed since those distant days of 1821. There are now tall trees obscuring the meadows in the background and the mill pond is far to deep for a horse and cart to get through owing to river defences.

Beyond Flatford there are open meadows through to Dedham which are such a pleasant and easy walk. And Dedham certainly did not disappoint. The huge church is well worth wandering around. I was quite proud of myself when wandering around the exterior of this building I noticed an un-hewn stone ominously sitting by the side of the church. It did have the feel that there must be a legend surrounding it. Sure enough on getting home and doing a little research it turned out to be The Sarsen Stone that locals claim was a meteorite that struck its founder dead for his cussing and swearing.

Leaving Dedham the route heads onto The Essex Way and ascends the hills with some magnificent views across Dedham Vale.

Flatford Mill
Flatford Mill


The route follows the Stour Valley Path through to Flatford where it joins St Edmund's Way to Dedham. Return is via the Essex Way to Manningtree with a short road section back to the start at Cattawade

The start of the walk is at the junction of the A137 and the B1070 at Cattawade (TM 10063 33105). There is a car park just off of the B1070 at the Stour Estuary Nsture Reserve. The Stour Valley Path follows the lane to the car park then continues along the B1070. The road passes through a hamlet of houses then turns right out into open countryside (TM 09440 33484). At this point the path leads off to the left. Stick to the right side of the first hedge despite the path leading to the left side which can become very boggy. The path rejoins its initial course after the first field then leads across the meadows to Flatford Mill. The route is self evident by the trampled grass across the meadows. The path joins a track as that leads down to Willy Lotts House and Flatford Mill. Continue around the side of the mill and turn left around Bridge Cottage and across the bridge (TM 07573 33328).

Follow the river beyond Flatford and head towards a bridge back across the river (TM 06751 33609). This leads onto a path bordered by thick hedgerow. Take the path that leads off to the left and navigates across the meadows and up onto the road by the side of the river. Dedham Mill is just over the bridge and on the right. Keep to the road up into the village. At the junction the church and the Sun Inn are a short distance up the road on the right. The Marlborough Inn is on the left of the junction and the route continues straight ahead on a public right of way between the buildings and is marked as The Essex Way (TM 05782 33163).

Keep to the paved path past the playing fields then head through a gap in the hedge at the far edge (TM 05764 32927). This leads across two fields before diverging away to the left down to a stream ignoring the footpath that leads straight ahead following the hedgerow to the field. A footbridge (TM 05677 32435) crosses the stream and the path leads past some cottages and onto a lane. Turn right (TM 05804 32242) and follow the lane until there is a waymarker and footpath on the left (TM 05732 32067). This leads down the side of a house and up through a wooded area before emerging out onto a field and across to a road (TM 05960 31931). Turn right onto the road and follow the pavement until a waymarker point off to the left (TM 05973 31827). This is a straight line through to the next road which it meets down at the bottom of the hill (TM 06685 31844). Walk straight ahead onto the road and follow this up the steep hill around the bend and then join another footpath on the left (TM 06906 31735). This leads diagonally across a field to another road (TM 07045 31641). Go straight across and follow the path across the fields and down to the railway (TM 07351 31366). Take care crossing the railway as this is just a pedestrian crossing with no indication that any trains are imminent. The line at this point is straight so, providing weather conditions are good, there is a good view in either direction. Follow the path up through the wooded Aldercar and onto the track. Where the track turns sharp right (TM 07720 31241) continue straight ahead then take the footpath on the left down to Broom Knollis (TM 07763 31257). Keep to the front of the cottages at the bottom of the hill, and follow the footpath around to the right and onto a track which leads out onto a road (TM 08064 31572). Turn right and follow the road around the bends until there is a sharp right bend. Just beyond this, following the trees on the left is a track bordering the grounds to Lawford Hall (TM 08423 31496). Before this track ends a footpath leads off to the left (TM 08688 31577) and emerges at Lawford Church.

Walk through the churchyard around to the left hand side of the church. A footpath continues beyond the churchyard and leads down to Manningtree Station. The Bar is located on Platform 2 of the station. Continue down the road to the station and turn left onto the A137. Keep to this as it passes over Middlebridge Creek and Cattawade CCReek until it once again meets the Stour Valley path which leads back into the car park.

Stone at Dedham ChurchDedham Church
On the left Stone at Dedham Church; On the right Dedham Church


The Sun Inn, Dedham View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Image of pub
High Street, Dedham

The pub dates from the 15th century when it was a coaching Inn. Since then it has been a busting 18th century tavern, a post war hotel and more recently it has become a modern gastro pub retaining original features. Accommodation, a terrace and a large pub garden are available in this family friendly pub. Food is available that advertises itself as local produce with a Mediterranean twist and a selection of ales, both local and from afar are available.


Four ales greeted us as we entered this old inn but the one that took my eye was Crouch Vales Brewers Gold. It was a tough decision. Bays Topsail was tempting. Redwillows Feckless ale was a name worth investigating but on all previous occasions that I have sampled Brewers Gold it has been exceptional. I am glad to say this example did not disappoint. I could very easily have unlaced my boots, put my feet up and spent the entire afternoon captured in its delight. Pale in colour. Well hopped. A bitter sweet balance that was pure nectar.

Manningtree Station Bar and Buffet, Manningtree View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Image of pub
Manningtree Station, Manningtree

This privately owned bar located in the Station Buffet on Platform 2 is a friendly and lively social meeting place. Snacks are available during lunchtimes and includes sandwiches, pannini's and similar fayre. The Bar has built a reputation for its well kept ales that are on offer.


I have heard a lot about this station bar in terms of the ales it keeps. Unfortunately when we peeked our heads into the bar all they had on was Hardy and Hansons Old Trip ale. This did not inspire us to venture any further. Hardy and Hanson may have once been a fine brewer but these days it is amongst the many brewers that Green King have openly transplanted to Bury St Edmunds. I don't believe any beer is the same if you brew it anywhere other than in its native origins. Maybe if Green King had left the brewery alone and produced a brew with a similar recipe then I would be more enthusiastic. If there were a wider variety of ales the location would be a train spotters, beer drinkers heaven. Maybe we should have persevered, forsook our pride and morals and spent an hour train spotting with the Old Trip.

River Stour at Flatford
River Stour at Flatford


Flatford MillView in OS Map | View in Google Map

This iconic 18th century watermill is the location for the works of the artist John Constable whose father bought the mill. The mill features in many of his paintings and is the location of the well known 'Haywain' which was painted looking forward of the Mill and features Willy Lott's cottage that sits alongside the millpond.

Dedham MillView in OS Map | View in Google Map

Along with Flatford Mill, Dedham Mill was owned by Godling Constable, the father of the renowned painter John Constable. The Mill was built to serve the wool trade where it was used for fulling wool. This term is used to denote the process of cleansing of wool to eliminate oils, dirt, and other impurities, and in the process, making it thicker. The mill reverted to a flour mill which lasted up until the 1980s. It has since been converted into luxury apartments.

The Sarsen StoneView in OS Map | View in Google Map

Standing against the south wall of St Mary's Church in Dedham is a distinctive stone knwon as the Sarsen Stone. Although not very distinctive the stone nonetheless contains an inscription which reads a rather plain 'Edw'rd Ward and MArtha his wife' without any date or reference to these names. Local folklore states that Edward Ward was a ploughman who had found the stone whilst ploughing a nearby field and had decided that this would make a fitting headstone when his time finally came. The Dedham burial register does record an entry which states 'Martha (wife) of Edward Ward 23rd September 1690'.

A more colourful local tale states that Edward Ward was renowned for his cussing and swearing and his persistent drinking. Such was his blasphemous outbursts that God struck him down with a meteorite. This was the stone that now lays in the churchyard and is a lesson for those who lead such ungodly lives.

Dedham Church of St Mary the VirginView in OS Map | View in Google Map

A church has stood on this location since the 14th century and the entrance to the present vestry is said to be the entrance to the original church. The present building dates from 1492 and was the last medieval 'wool church' to be completed, albeit in a more economical style that was originally intended. The Ascension by John Constable is on permanent display in the church. A viewing platform on top of the tower (open to the public from Easter to Harvest) gives excellent views of the lower part of the Stour valley.

Rowing Boats at Dedham
Rowing Boats at Dedham


Below are a selection of images taken from from the photo album for this walk. Feel free to browse through these or click on an image to view a larger version in the Gallery.

Summary of Document Changes

Last Updated: 2019-01-26

2013-07-31 : initial publication
2017-12-22 : general maintenance updates
2019-01-26 : general maintenance updates


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