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The Stour Valley Path is 25 years old!

Logo: Stour Valley Path
River Stour near Stoke by Clare  (Dedham Vale AONB)
River Stour near Stoke by Clare (Dedham Vale AONB)

2019 marks the 25th anniversary of the Stour Valley Path, a long distance walking route that stretches over 60 miles (97km), through Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and Essex. It closely follows the River Stour, from its source near Newmarket, to where it joins the estuary at Cattawade, near Manningtree. This meandering, peaceful route will take you through a landscape of gently rolling hills, quiet woodlands, fresh riverside pastures and over 20 picturesque towns and villages.

The Stour Valley Path started out as the passion of one man and his love of the landscape. In 1957, Roger Wolfe, now one of the Path’s footpath wardens, rambled from Newmarket to Haverhill and was impressed by the remote, unspoiled countryside of the upper Stour. For ten years he and his wife Stella regularly walked in the valley and continued to see the potential of enabling more people enjoying the landscape. By 1967, using his experience of other long distance routes and being a member of the Ramblers he began talking to local organisations about formally establishing a long distance path. This was quite a challenge to take on, as so many different people, organisations, landowners and local authorities must be involved.

He kept the idea alive for a long time, and when the staff team for the Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and Stour Valley was established in the 1980s, he finally had support progressing through the various channels, and was able to work with an organisation with an interest along the whole proposed path route. Backed by volunteers, Ramblers groups, landowners and Rights of Way teams in Suffolk and Essex, the Stour Valley Path was officially launched in 1994, after ten years of development.

View near Kedington (Dedham Vale AONB)
View near Kedington (Dedham Vale AONB)

Since then, the Dedham Vale AONB and Stour Valley has continually conserved, enhanced and improved the walking route, with the help of a great bunch of Stour Valley Footpath Volunteers. Signage is checked regularly, and working with landowners and Rights of Way officers the footpaths are kept accessible and clear. The path could not exist without the help of the landowners along the route, who help us to enjoy some of the most beautiful and scenic countryside that the three

counties have to offer.

Much of the route in the lower Stour Valley passes through Constable Country, named after John Constable. This Stour Valley artist was born in 1776 and is renowned for many works of art, including “Flatford Mill” and “The Hay Wain”. Thomas Gainsborough, more famous for his portraits, also brought his artistic viewpoint of the Stour Valley to the world, with pieces such as “Landscape in Suffolk” and “Drawn after Nature”.

Walkers and artists are not the only people to enjoy the Stour Valley however. Running groups regularly use the path and dog walkers are a common sight. We ask everyone to help keep the area special for the enjoyment of all who use the route, and to help dogs be ‘Good Dogs’ by collecting and disposing of mess responsibly.

Kissing gate near Glemsford (Dedham Vale AONB)
Kissing gate near Glemsford (Dedham Vale AONB)

To mark the 25th anniversary, two main initiatives are being launched. Firstly, the Dedham Vale AONB and Stour Valley is increasing its efforts to improve the quality of the footpath. More waymarker posts will be installed to help guide walkers along the route, along with additional waymarker discs to have clear directions and help walkers feel more secure on their journey. During the early part of 2019 additional improvements have been the replacement of 30 stiles with gates and kissing gates at locations along the 60-mile route. Thanks to this LEADER funded project access has been enhanced, whilst also keeping farm animals safe. This seemingly small change will greatly improve the walking experience along the Stour Valley Path.

Secondly, an initiative titled the “Stour Valley Path Passport” has been launched this summer. Walkers can download the free Passport, and use it to collect stamps from participating locations, whether that be a church, tea-room, or pub. Some of these participating locations have offered special deals to those who stamp their passport with them. There has never been a better time to walk the Stour Valley Path, especially given that you can claim a Certificate of Completion upon walking the

entire route. And should you finish the passport in 2019, the year of the 25th anniversary, then some modest prizes will also be provided.

Another reason to complete walking the path by the end of the anniversary year!

For more information about the Passport, please contact dedhamvale.project@suffolk.gov.uk or go to dedhamvalestourvalley.org/stour-valley-path/stour-valley-path-passport for more information.

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