Sunday, 28 August 2011

The Sky and River in Constable Country

Early this summer we made a family list of all the things we would like to do before summer drew to a close.
Well, today is 28th August and we finally got around to taking Frank out on the River Stour in a rowing boat.
We are all huge fans of The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame and love the stretch of water between Dedham and Flatford.
One can walk along the river from the pretty village of Dedham to Flatford along the Stour Valley.
One side of the river is in Essex and the other in Suffolk.
It is our go-to family walk for any occasion.
Once in Flatford there is the water mill and a fab tea room and cafe (always a winner!). The mill was famously painted by John Constable (and by this I mean he painted a picture of it not that he whitewashed it!!).
And if you have a look at his paintings he took such care over and put such detail into his skies. Big billowing clouds, shades of grey, blue and purple.
Wonderful stuff.
These pastoral scenes have become a little over-exposed as they have been used for placemats and tea towels and ties, much like Vincent's sunflowers.
I don't think it is fashionable to love Constable but as he painted the beauty of my home county I feel a great fondness for his work.
So, as you have a look at my two men in a boat, look also behind them to the trees, the willows dangling into the water and that big Constable sky.

They loved it.
Frank, of course, wanted to row and those huge oars weigh a ton for him so he resorted to sitting at the front and either shouting "Ahoy" to other people heading up the river or calling out "Fire the cannons" at them instead.
I sat smiling and hid behind my shades ...
We docked the boat back at the launch jetty and about three seconds later (with no exaggeration) the sky opened and it rained like mad for as long as it took us to run to the van!
We picnicked and steamed the van up as we dried and then drove home via McLaughlan's for sweetcorn fresh from the fields.
A lovely kind of day.


  1. wow, wow, WOW! What a beautiful trip down the river. I love the trees. Weeping willows are my absolute favorite, I have fond memories of them as a child, tying their long branches into swings and gliding through the air with no worries. Lovely times indeed.

  2. Oh, my gosh, what a beautiful place!

    How cool to be able to see the landscape of "Wind in the Willows" (and what's wrong with me that I didn't realize it was a real place!)

    We spent our day packing for our postponed-by-the-hurricane vacation (leaving tomorrow--hooray!), and waiting for it to hit. We'd spent the day before moving EVERYTHING out of the yard and into our house, re-locating our chicken coop into our neighbor's garage, and stocking up. And then--it didn't really happen. Rain--lots of it--and flooding. Now the lights are flickering. But nothing like predicted. So, all in all, it was a pretty good day for us, too. :-)

  3. Gorgeous.

    What a breathtaking journey!!

  4. The photos are amazing Jules. And..your men are so handsome. Sounds like an amazing adventure. xo

  5. What can be more fun than messing about on the river!!

  6. i can't imagine a more lovely day, rain and all! thanks for sharing your words and pictures! :)

  7. How beautiful, thanks for transporting me from nasty, hot Texas to such a lovely place. Wish I was there!

  8. Ahoy!
    It sounds (and looks) absolutely idyllic.

  9. hey jules, i just saw this on a blog i follow, and it reminded me so much of frank. enjoy!

  10. Hi Jules - I've just discovered your blog. I found you via your posts over at 30 Day Vegan, and followed you on over to here because I've been so touched by so much of what you've said over there.

    This looks like a gorgeous day! And it reminds me that we mean to canoe more, with our little guy, and eventually get our own canoe. My husband grew up on a bay off the Gulf of Mexico and canoed a lot as a young boy, on his own. We don't live right on the water now but there are loads of lakes and small rivers close enough, and this lovely post reminds me that we've waited too much to make it a regular part of our lives.

  11. Beautiful! Reminds me of the paintings of Frederick Church..Sounds like the perfect day..