Our plan of slecting two or three places to visit each day worked really well for us today. Some of our visits were to villages in Suffolk ands others were across the border in Essex. To us, they are so close so that whichever county they are in doesn’t really matter.
After a slow start, we drove to the town of Manningtree. This is billed as a gateway to Constable country. It is England’s smallest town – at just over 19 hectares. Its most familiar landmark is Mistley Towers. The Towers, are the surviving remnants of a fine 18th Century church, although the area can be traced back much further – with stories of Romans, Shakespeare, witches, aristocrats, and industry. .
We got lost in its network of one-way streets but did manage to see many of the buildings in the town with their Georgian facades. A popular area in town is the walk along the Stour River.
Just a short way from Manningtree is the little village of Flatford. We have been there before, but it is such a nice place that a second visit is not out of order. The obvious place to visit is Flatford Mill where Constable painted his famous painting ‘The Haywain’. ’You can sill recognise Willy Lofts cottage across the pond.
Here’s a comparison between the painting and the scene today. Actually, Constable didn’’t make any money from this painting. It didn’t become famous until after his death. Now, it is on every chocolate and biscuit tin ever made.
The Mill is still recognisable from some of his other paintings, It is is located just downstream from Bridge Cottage which is a 16th-century thatched cottage owned by the National Trust. There is much to see and we spent more than an hour pottering around the mill, lock and bridge across the Stour Navigation Way.
After leaving Flatford, we drove on to towards the little village of Kensey via Hadleigh.
Hadleigh is a market town. Up until the 17th Century, Hadleigh was a cloth-making town in common with the rest of the area (Kersey, Lavenham, Long Melford). Consequently it was a wealthy town and it still contains some lovely old timber framed houses. However as the cloth industry declined, so did Hadleigh and it wasn’t until the age of the train that the town really prospered again. At that time some of the older properties which had been neglected for centuries were re-fronted in Victorian style, which gives Hadleigh the appearance of mixed architecture when in fact many buildings are really medieval.
Our final stop was at Kensey. This is reported to be one of the most picturesque villages in Suffolk. It is situated between two hills, near to Hadleigh. Its main street dips from Church Hill, and actually has a ford in it. There are multi-coloured cottages and thatched cottages running down to the ford (or water splash).
Kersey was already a thriving community before the Norman Conquest in 1066. Its pub, The Bell, was built in the 1300’s. The village is mentioned in an Anglo-Saxon will about 900 AD. Whilst it is small, it has a vibrant community with a school, church, village hall and pub. It is famous for the Kersey cloth, a rough woollen fabric which brought prosperity to the village in the 14th century. The Medieval Weavers’ houses can still be seen in The Street, the main road in Kersey.