One of our favourite walks we’ve done in Suffolk this trip is in the area encompassing East Bergholt, Flatford, and Dedham Vale. These villages and the countryside surrounding them have become known as Constable Country.
The English landscape painter John Constable was born in East Bergholt, where we started our walk. I had heard of Constable before I met Clive, but didn’t realize he was considered one of the world’s greatest landscape painters, or that he was a native of Suffolk.
Constable Country is located south of Felixstowe, Clive’s home town, along the River Stour on the Suffolk and Essex border. This is another wonderful area of great natural beauty that we wish we had more time to explore. For anyone interested in Constable in particular or landscape painting in general, it seems an almost perfect destination, especially if you also like walking.
A Remarkably Unchanged Landscape
What struck us most about Constable Country is that the scenery today looks virtually the same as when Constable painted it 200 or so years ago. Walking across fields (dodging the occasional cowpat, a new experience for me since meeting Clive and walking in England) and along the River Stour is quiet and peaceful, and we often felt we might be in the same place Constable was when he created his great works.
We brought our lunch and a thermos of coffee, and found a shady place under a tree where we sat and watched the clouds go by. It was just us and the gently-flowing River Stour, which features in many of Constable’s paintings.
The National Trust of England manages several buildings at Flatford Mill, where Constable painted some of his greatest works. The Trust has a free map pinpointing exact places to walk where you can still see the same views that Constable saw, and learn where the corresponding paintings are currently displayed. Willy Lott’s Cottage, now called by its original name, Willy Lott’s House, is intentionally kept by the National Trust to look exactly as it did in The Hay Wain and other Constable paintings.
I found it quite moving to walk through the same fields and footpaths where Constable spent his childhood playing and walking to and from school. We now look forward to viewing his works in person when we visit museums, such as the National Gallery,that house them, and I know I have a new appreciation for this renowned artist from Suffolk.
We read in several places that John Constable wrote, “I associate my careless boyhood with all that lies on the banks of the Stour. These scenes made me a painter and I am grateful.”