Dedham is a lovely village to visit – we’ve written about it many times on Essex Days Out. It’s really busy in the summer months, but at other times of the year it’s much quieter, and one half of Essex Days Out did this walk on a slightly cold and damp day in November 2020, when the Covid regulations had lifted for a while.
The walk in winter can be a little muddy in places (you’re going off road), so remember to wear some stout boots and dress appropriately for the weather.
Start your walk at the Pay and Display car park in Mill Lane (Postcode: CO7 6DH). As you come out of the car park turn right on to Mill Lane, and walk across the bridge over the River Stour – you will now have crossed the county border, left Essex behind and entered Suffolk – but only for a short while.
Here you can stand safely on the path on the left hand side of the bridge and look across the River Stour towards Flatford. Flatford is of course where the English landscape painter John Constable painted The Haywain. Constable knew this scene well as he walked along the river bank from Flatford to Dedham where he went to school. There are often cattle grazing alongside the river, so if you decide to take a stroll there, remember to stay clear of any cattle that may be in the fields, and if you have a dog with you keep it on a lead.
Behind you is a kissing gate that leads in to a field. Go through the gate and on your left will be the Mill Pond. The big brick building is Dedham Mill. Now an apartment complex, it is on the site of an earlier mill that was owned by John Constable’s father, Golding Constable.
In the winter months the path across here can be quite muddy, so be careful not slip over. Just before you reach the corner of the field look out for a pathway through the trees on the left-hand side, which leads to a kissing gate and steps which take you up to Dedham Lock. The path at this point does have tree roots across it, so be careful where you walk.
From the bridge there’s a lovely view of Dedham Lock, which appeared in another of Constables paintings, ‘Dedham Mill and Lock’. The view has changed since Constable’s time, as the mill and the lock have both been re-built since he knew them.
From the bridge, follow the footpath back to Mill Lane, where you need to turn right and head in to the village centre. You’ve crossed the county border again, and are now firmly back in Essex.
At the top of the lane you’ll arrive at Royal Square. Here you’ll find a variety of venues to stop for refreshments at the end of your walk (or at this point if you’re feeling particularly hungry and thirsty). There’s the Essex Rose tearoom which is owned by Wilkins and Son, the Marlborough pub, Dedham Arts and Craft Centre, and the Sun Inn.. If you fancy a picnic, there’s a Co-Op which sells sandwiches, salads, drinks and of course cakes.
Dominating the scene is St. Mary’s Parish Church which is one of the great Essex and Suffolk Wool Churches. It’s a beautiful church, and if it’s open when you visit Dedham, do take time to go inside.
Now turn right along the High Street, and look for School Lane just past the shops on the left hand side.
Take the lane and walk to the top, turn left, and walk alongside the cricket pitch. This is called the Duchy Field as it is owned by the Duchy of Lancaster. Keep to the edge of the field by the tree line, in winter it can be quite muddy at this point.
Remember to admire the view of the church from across the field. This is a scene that John Constable sketched many times. On reaching Duchy Lane, turn right, and follow the path past the cricket club. You will come to a pink timber-framed house called Southfields. Southfields dates from the 15th century, and is Grade 1 listed. The building has been put to many uses over the centuries, but it’s now private homes.
After Southfields, follow the lane, alongside a small stream, called the Black Brook. At the top of the lane is a timber framed house called Whitmore House, at one time it was the Dedham workhouse, and opposite are a row of alms-houses.
Now turn left along Crown Street, and follow the road until you’re back in Royal Square, ready for some refreshments.