Dedham Vale AONB

Stoke by Nayland Church, Dedham Vale AONB, Suffolk
Stoke by Nayland Church, Dedham Vale AONB © DV AONB

Dedham Vale – Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is located in the east of England in the counties of Essex and Suffolk. Designated a AONB back in 1970, the AONB has been established for over 40 years. The area covers 90 square kilometres making Dedham Vale one of the most compact AONB in the UK. The area provides a fine example of the scenic English countryside consisting of lowland landscape, farmland, ancient woodlands, rivers and meadows. The AONB covers an area from close to Bures in the west to Shelley in the north to Manningtree in the east and Langham in the south.

There are a number of distinctive landscape characteristics in the area these include open marshes and tributary valleys, sheltered valley-floor meadows and fields on the valley slopes. The landscape known for its unspoilt beauty has inspired many over the years including artist John Constable.

The area covered by the AONB designation is located next to the remainder of the Stour Valley area that stretches west to Great Bradley and north to Boxted in Suffolk. This part of the Stour Valley is also scenic and well worth visiting, it is a possible future AONB area.

The AONB is primarily rural in nature, used for farming and is home to a number of scenic villages located in the AONB. The area is important for local wildlife and biodiversity, the site is important for nature conservation and includes Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs)

The area is popular for boating, canoeing, kayaking, day trippers and walkers and cyclists with a number of routes to explore. Visitors can enjoy the unspoiled landscapes and tranquilly whilst enjoying the best in the English countryside.

Quick Facts

Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty:

Year of Designation: 1970

Population: 10,000

Size in square kilometres: 90

Main Settlements: Dedham, East Bergholt, Flatford, Higham, Nayland .
Located in: Essex and Suffolk.


Dedham Vale AONB is located in the east of England in Essex and Suffolk. The area is essentially rural with narrow lanes and a number of small villages known for their timber frame and thatch houses. The commercial development in the area is still relatively small scale when compared to other AONBs across the UK, making the area ideal for those seeking a quiet, rural retreat away from the noise and traffic of large towns and cities. The location means the AONB is easily assessable across the east of England, southern England and the Midlands and is approx 1 hour 45 minutes to 2 hours from London, taking it assessable as a day trip destination from London and much of the Midlands and south of England.

Tourist Information Centres are located at various locations close to the AONB areas. The main tourist information centres are located in Colchester, Lavenham, Newmarket and Sudbury. Each of the centres has knowledgeable staff that can provide useful local knowledge on local attractions and places of interest, things to see, along with local advice and tips. A visit to the tourist information centres makes for a good first port of call for visitors helping to better plan and organise trips in and around the area.

Local Accommodation includes a mix of historic and contemporary hotels, B & B’s, Guest Houses, Self Catering houses and charming cottages. Local accommodation is available in Sudbury, Stoke-by-Nyland, Long Melford and Leavenheath. There is accommodation available in the nearby towns of Colchester and Ipswich which are located close by to the area of the AONB.

Within the AONB there are no large towns and cities, there are a number of villages and hamlets each with its own distinctive history, character and charm. Visiting the local villages offers an insight in to the history, tradition and local customs of the area in addition to a number of local attractions and places of interest.

Local Villages include Dedham is located on the River Stour in Essex, 8 miles from Colchester close to the border with Suffolk. The village includes a number of outlaying hamlets, the village is regarded as being located in one of England's most scenic lowland landscapes forming a key part of Dedham Vale. The village was once a market town known for the wool industry, today it is a commercial village the High Street includes a choice of shops and amenities with grocery store, pharmacy, post office, delicatessen, gift, book and flower shops along with others. The village is home to the St Mary's Church and a Methodist Chapel that dates back to the 19th century. The village includes a number of tearooms, pubs and restaurants in addition to its local amenities making it an interesting and useful place for visitors to see.

Higham is a village located 10 miles north of Colchester in the AONB. The compact village is located on the River Brett includes a small church located by the river, dating back many centuries, the church was restored in the late 19th and 20th centuries and remains in use today. Rowley Grove nature reserve is also located here, the village hosts point to point races that are held four times a year on the racecourse that is located on the northern side of the village.

Stoke-by-Nyland is located within the AONB, the village is located in Suffolk, 8 miles north of Colchester. The scenic village is known for its cottages and timber framed houses, located in a Conservation Area there are a number of noteworthy historic and medieval buildings including a number of impressive Grade I and Grade II* listed buildings. The St Mary's Church dates back to the 15th century, the tower is 120 feet in height dominating the local landscape. The village includes a number of amenities including general store, post office and gastro pubs. The Stoke By Nayland Hotel Golf and Spa includes a golf course offering fine golfing facilities in scenic surroundings.

Munnings Museum is located in the Dedham Vale just under 10 miles north of Colchester. The Sir Alfred Munnings Art Museum is located inside the former home of artist Sir Alfred Munnings, set among 40 acres of scenic countryside. Castle House is a historic house that includes influences from both Tudor and Georgian eras, inside there are a range of collections and exhibitions for visitors to see. There are a number of events held throughout the year and there is a cafe serving a choice of food and drinks.

Melford Hall is located in Long Melford in Suffolk, just under 20 miles north of Colchester. The impressive stately home dates back to the 16th century, it has been the family home of the Hyde Parker family for many generations and continues to be so currently. Now run by the National Trust visitors can see the Hall and its eclectic
mix of collections that include porcelain, art works and furniture. Visitors can enjoy a leisurely stroll through the impressive landscaped gardens. Food and drinks are available on site visitors can enjoy sandwiches and cream teas on the lawn and a gift shop offers a choice of local produce, mementos and souvenirs.

Walking is one of the most popular activities in the AONB and surrounding area, there are several popular walks in the area for visitors to try, these include a number of long distance trails that go through the Stour Valley including The Essex Way and The Stour Valley Path, the routes vary in length from 2 miles to over 60 miles catering for a range of abilities. There are a number of self guided routes across the Stour Valley that are waymarked. Walking in the area provides a great cost effective and fun way to get closer to nature, get off the beaten track and discover the best in the local countryside.

Cycling provides a cost efficient and fun way to explore Dedham Vale and the surrounding area in an environmentally friendly way, get fit and see the attractions and places of interest, landscapes and wildlife up close. The area includes lanes and scenic byways along with great natural scenery making the area well suited to cycling. There are a choice of cycle routes in the area, including the Cycle South Suffolk route, Painter's Trail and National Cycle Route 1, offering mixed terrains, historical attractions, charming villages and some splendid views.

Visitors to Dedham Vale AONB can enjoy a scenic rural haven with open spaces, a varied landscape and a number of charming local villages. The rural nature of the area and lack of large towns and cities mean the area is ideal for visitors after a tranquil location making it an ideal place to relax and get away from it all, get closer to nature and enjoy the great outdoors.

How to Get There

Dedham Vale AONB is accessible by both car and public transport.

By Car:

The village of East Bergholt in Suffolk is located in the AONB, East Bergholt is located 10 miles north of Colchester and is approx 75 miles from central London. From London, take the A3211, then the A1203, then A13. At the junction with the M25, take the M25 up to junction 2Band exit on to the A12. Take the A12 until the exit with the B1070 that goes to East Bergholt. The approx journey time is 1 hour 40 minutes to 2 hours 15 minutes depending on traffic and time of day.

By Train:

The train station at Manningtree is located next to the AONB, there are has regular services with London Liverpool Street station, the journey time is approx 1 hour 10 minutes.

By Bus/Coach:

There are regular buses available from London Victoria Coach station to Colchester in Essex located approx 10 miles from the AONB. The approx journey time is approx 2 hours 10 minutes to 2 hours 45 minutes depending on time of day and traffic . Coach services to Colchester are provided by services are provided by National Express.

Contact Details

Dedham Vale AONB & Stour Valley Project
c/o Suffolk County Council
Endeavour House
8 Russell Road

Telephone: +44 (0)1473 264263

Website: Dedham Vale AONB


For Local Search and Directions see: Dedham Vale (AONB) Map

Tips & Other Considerations

The weather and climate can be unpredictable, there can be elements of all four seasons in one day. Ensure you check the weather forecast before you travel and have the correct clothing and footwear including comfortable walking shoes, fleece, raincoat and umbrella.

Follow travel advice and remain alert, vigilant and aware of your belongings at all times especially your wallet/purse and valuables and ensure they are hidden away from public view. If you have a bag try to use a shoulder bag with a good quality, strong strap, that is put across your shoulder not on your shoulder making it more difficult for anyone to take your bag.

If you are travelling by car to Dedham Vale ensure you are well prepared with maps and Sat Nav to aid your journey, particularly if you are not familiar with the local area and roads. Use the journey planner for door to door directions. Check traffic updates before you travel.

If you are looking for car parking in and around the AONB, ensure you fully understand the rules, regulations & charges for car parks and street parking. The rules & regulations can be complex & confusing if you are unclear, it is wise not to park there.

If you are travelling by public transport, check for service updates prior to beginning your journey for any delays, disruption or cancellations to services that may impact on your journey. Ensure you have the service timetables for the trains, trams, buses and coaches. Remember when the last services are and ensure you make it to the train/bus/coach stops well in time to avoid missing the service.

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