In January 2020, I became a columnist for Essex Life magazine, writing about doggy days out in and around the county. Here is my article about Dedham…
What to see
Dedham is in the heart of Constable Country – made famous by artist John Constable in the 18th Century. Follow in his footsteps by visiting some of the places he painted, which are still recognisable today. These include Flatford Mill and Willy Lott’s House. The area is now maintained by the National Trust, which has a great little café with a dog-friendly zone. All-day parking costs £5.
The surrounding Dedham Vale is a designated Area of Outstanding Beauty and the views are simply stunning, no matter what time of year you visit. You can walk between Dedham and Flatford in around 40 minutes by following the path that runs alongside the River Stour. Dogs must be kept on leads at all times though as there is often livestock grazing.
Stop by the RSPB’s Flatford Wildlife Garden too, which is free to visit. There’s a trail with carved wooden animals, plants for sale and lots of ideas to inspire visitors to make their own gardens more wildlife-friendly. Dogs are welcome but must be kept on a lead.
As you explore the area, you’ll no doubt see people taking to the water in boats or kayaks – and you and your dog can too by joining one of the River Stour Trust’s boat trips. These half-hour trips run between 11am and 4pm on weekends, Bank Holidays and at advertised times during the school holidays. Adult tickets cost £6 while dogs sail for £1.
Where to eat
If it’s tea and cake you’re after, head to the Essex Rose Tea Room. This traditional café is the Dedham outpost of Tiptree jam maker Wilkin & Sons, so expect good things! The Old Bakery Café is a great brunch spot too and is home to the Dedham Vale Deli, which serves the finest locally-sourced produce. Dogs are allowed inside at both venues.
The Sun Inn serves upmarket pub grub, and dogs are welcome both inside and out at traditional country inn, The Marlborough. For somewhere a bit more formal though, check out Milsoms – a stylish country house hotel. Visitors can dine with their dogs on the covered outdoor terrace and also in the lounge. The hotel also has several pet-friendly bedrooms, if you fancy staying over.
While you’re in the area
Visit Old Knobbley near Mistley which – at 800 years old – is one of the oldest oak trees in England. The gnarled tree is an incredible 36ft wide and during the 17th Century, it sheltered a number of ‘witches’ from Witchfinder General Matthew Hopkins, who lived nearby. It was also used as a station by the British Army during the Second World War.