Country,  England

Flatford, the perfect spot for an afternoon stroll

On our final leg of our Suffolk getaway, Dan and I parked the car in East Bergholt and took a stroll towards Flatford. I’d seen a few references to the area whilst researching places to visit, and I was drawn in by the lack of information: I just had to see it for myself. So, after leaving our car opposite the Red Lion pub, we walked towards the village church, then followed Flatford Road all the way down to the car park.

Related: How we spent a weekend in Woodbridge

Flatford is another National Trust location, historically connected to the painter, John Constable. Constable lived locally to Flatford, so the mill and its surrounding buildings were a source of inspiration for one of England’s most famous artists. Plus, it is a clear favourite with dog walkers; I have never seen so many dogs in one place. As we passed through the car park and descended the stairs towards the riverside, Ted met at least six new friends.

We could instantly see why it’s such a popular location. Bridge Cottage, housing some shops, a cafe, and Constable paintings, is the perfect backdrop for a stroll along the River Stour. I love a thatched cottage anyway, but this one was a portal that transported us back to the 18th Century right at the beginning of our walk.

Bridge Cottage from a bridge over the River Stour

We crossed the bridge for some scenic views of the river and buildings along its north banks. The black timbered granary has had a rich history, and is quite imposing over the water. At the time though, we had no idea what it was, but were impressed nonetheless. Clearly, Constable and I have the same eye for aesthetics!

The area also sports a number of water features: a lock and some waterfalls, so the sound of rushing water was a pleasant soundtrack to our walk.

The most imposing building in the hamlet is by far Valley Farm. It’s the oldest building in Flatford, and the second I saw it, I fell in love – everything about it is my dream home, from the timbered walls, to its long drive. To find it, we had to cross back over the river and walk towards the mill, although I could have leaned on its wooden gate and stared at it for hours.

Valley Farm

A little further down the river is the mill, although I had no idea it was the mill while we were there. Unfortunately, it’s not accessible to the public, so we had to view it from the outside. The red brick building and its wisteria climbers are stunning, and directly opposite the entrance is a brick wall around the river, a lovely spot to give Ted a chance to see the water.

I thought that the mill might be a perfect location for a wedding, especially since it has such a significant history – it was actually owned by John Constable’s father. What better backdrop for a loved-up couple?

Dan and Ted outside Flatford Mill

After sitting at the mill for a while, and a meeting with a huge basset hound, we started to make our way back past the beautiful buildings of Flatford, and I was quite disappointed to leave. Had we not been rushing home to watch Game of Thrones, we might have sat in the tea shop and taken in the ambience.

Just to top off our walk, when we reached the top of the hill on Flatford Road, we were met with the most magnificent view of St Mary the Virgin East Bergholt. The 14th Century structure is one of the most incredible churches outside of a city that I have ever seen, and I desperately wanted just 10 minutes to wander around the graveyard, looking at the gravestones. Alas, Jon Snow was waiting, and we had to leave.

Next time you’re in the area, take a couple of hours to wander through the beauty of Constable Country. Perhaps take your sketchpad and make your own art.

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