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                  ’ well as how to ensure it can become a place for visitors to Flatford to discover.
The National Trust also cares for around 235 hectares of land within the Dedham Vale AONB. Most of this is farmland, but there is also wood pasture, woodland and grassland.
Visitors to Flatford can start their exploration of the Dedham Vale by following one of several walking routes, both along the River Stour or heading further inland. Views of the meandering river, small fields, church towers and half-timbered cottages are all recognisable as the same features that Constable painted 150 years ago.
The landscapes and buildings depicted by Constable are still remarkably unchanged, and the sense of timeless “Englishness” within the Dedham Vale is profound. This landscape has inspired many other artists, including Sir Alfred Munnings.
But, scratch under the surface of this peaceful and bucolic landscape and the remains of its busy industrial history are revealed.
A mill is mentioned at Flatford in the Domesday Book, and by 1491 it was operating as a fulling mill linking Flatford with Suffolk’s lucrative wool trade. The mill came into the possession of the Constable family in 1742, by which time it had been converted for use as a grain mill. The exterior of the building bears scars which reveal how the mill formerly functioned, and to the rear is a wheelhouse associated with a large cast iron wheel
Flatford fun: Boating in front of Bridge Cottage and, bottom right, a frosty path to the NT site
installed after 1846. The mill machinery was removed in the 1930s, but the facades of both buildings are little changed since they were depicted in Constable’s paintings and both properties are listed Grade I owing to their significance to his life and work.
Grade II listed Bridge Cottage, at the west end of the hamlet, has continually changed over time. It has provided accommodation for a miller and his family; an official toll point on the river navigation; a point of supply for fresh provisions including bread baked in distinctive beehive ovens; a rest area, possibly serving beer brewed on the premises; a site offering assistance with boat repairs for the lighters.
Today, visitors to Flatford can see inside Bridge Cottage, gaze at the view depicted in The Hay Wain and imagine how the gentle River Stour we see today was once a hive of industrial activity. In the summer months, few things could represent a day out in the English countryside better than a slice of cake and tea from the National Trust tea room, enjoyed gazing out at the surrounding scene. In the colder months, the countryside takes on a different beauty, with frosty trees lining the river and walking routes that just ask for a welly-booted exploration.
    “The landscapes and buildings depicted by Constable are still remarkably unchanged, and the sense of timeless “Englishness” within the Dedham Vale is profound.”

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