Starting at Stratford St Mary, we enjoyed meandering through delightful country towns, many associated with John Constable. He caught the stage coach outside The Swan in Stratford St Mary, to unsuccessfully try and interest the London public in his paintings.
Next was Nayland, where we saw one of only three religious works by Constable, and this is the only one to still be in the location it was painted for.
Kersey is a real 'chocolate-box' village. The ford, which is still in use, is a must for photos. We carried on until Chelmsford, where we left the route for a detour to Helmingham Hall Gardens. These gardens are wonderful, and unlike yesterday's, these definitely are in our top five favourite gardens list! The moated Tudor house is a draw-card in itself, even though it is not open to the public. The main gardens are also moated (possibly a Saxon moat), and an absolute delight to visit. The roses were stunning, and I would recommend a visit in June, to catch the gardens at their best. There is also a lovely formal garden behind the very tempting 'Old Stables' tearooms.
Back on the AA route, we went through the colourful town of Hadleigh to East Bergholt, where Constable was born. The church there has the distinction of not having a church spire. The tower was started by Cardinal Wolsey, but never finished, and the bells still hang in a temporary wooden enclosure.
Flatford is just around the corner, and the National Trust have preserved Willy Lott's cottage and the boat building dry-dock, and it is possible to walk around the area, looking at the various sites where Constable did some of his most famous paintings. The afternoon was so warm, we did a boat trip from in front of Bridge Cottage, the NT display centre. This took us along the River Stour, which featured in many of his paintings, to the Fen Bridge where Constable crossed the river twice a day going to and from school in Dedham.
The last stop of the Day was Dedham to visit the church, found in 26 of Constable's paintings, and which also has one of his three religious paintings on the wall. Although this was originally painted for the church in Mannington, it was displayed here when that building was demolished with the intent that at least one of Constable's religious paintings should be on show in Constable Country.