Our tours run through the Stour Valley and Dedham Vale, which is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) – one level down from a National Park.
This 25 mile stretch of river passes through some of the most idyllic Suffolk scenery and links together the homes of two of the most famous painters of the British landscape. We start at Sudbury, home to Thomas Gainsborough and pass through Bures, Nayland, Stratford St Mary, Dedham and the iconic Flatford Mill, made famous by John Constable.
The whole journey – known as the Sudbury to Sea Tour (S2C) – takes two days to complete and is a real challenge. We can help you complete the Sudbury to Sea, but it doesn’t have to be done in one go. We recommend doing the Upper River (Gainsborough) on one visit and then come back another time to do the Lower River (Constable). In May/June you can see ducklings and one range of wild flowers; by late August cygnets will be quite big and there’ll be a different range of flowers along the banks.
Although only an hour or so from London, the Stour Valley is a timeless slice of English landscape & history. Most of the countryside alongside the route is not accessible by public footpath and apart from the occasional fisherman, we’ll meet few other people until we get to Dedham.
There is plenty of wildlife to see along the river – including herons, kingfishers, swans, buzzards, several varieties of dragonflies and plenty of freshwater fish.
Down at the estuary there are reedbeds and birds of prey such as marsh harriers. We will see evidence of otters and watervoles – the very lucky few may even see one.
Along the river there are several magnificant water mills and we get to see them from the best vantage point – on the river!
Suffolk built its ancient wealth on wool. Some of this wealth was spent on beautiful flint-built churches that you’ll see on the tour – Stoke by Nayland, Stratford St Mary and Dedham.
There’s also some grand houses – the one with the best prospect of the river is Smallbridge Hall. Your guide will tell you the juicy history of this impressive Tudor mansion.