The flimflam man who does the publicity for these rambles has been taking flack from critics who think that his repeated predictions of fine weather for the day of the walks is asking for trouble, hostaging fortune etc, etc. But once again the naysayers were confounded for this excursion in Constable Country.

The clouds which loured upon our walk on the previous two days were by some miracle in the deep bosom of the ocean buried by the time we embarked on the walk on a brisk and brilliant Saturday morning.

A jolly crew assembled at Liverpool Street station and negotiated significant group savings for the one hour journey to Manningtree.

The walk starts straight from the station along nicely mixed paths to St Marys Lawford, hectic with activity as the locals decked it in glad array for the next days harvest festival which also marked the departure of the rector. Wonderful flowers.

Then some varied but easy ups and downs to Dedham, beckoned on by its magnificent flint church. As we walked, the views became more and more straight from the paintings of John Constable..remarkable that the landscape has changed so little in 200 years. Even the electricity pylons (so telling a detail in the Tamara Drewe movie) have been banished to the end of Dedham Vale, nearly back in Manningtree itself.

A jolly lunch at the Sun, Dedham (more sun!) at a single round table which accommodated 13 easily and would have coped with the whole Ramble if two had not peeled off in pursuit of a pudding elsewhere (unrealised, alas!). To be exact, the meal started outside on the terrace, migrating inside after a few paltry drops of rain (to keep the naysayers sweet); nice to have a pub and staff who were uncomplaining about the change of venue, and a table big enough to do the job so precisely.

A wedding denied us the chance of looking round the inside of the church after lunch. Then came the traditional parting from the beaten track as instinct took over from map reading and the party attempted various routes along the river Stour. As Annies pictures should show, this is a walk where the spirit of Constable is still very much in the air..past Willy Lotts cottage from the Hay Wain and Flatford Mill (which features in the picture of the same name).

Serious Note: Two apostates on the Road Not Taken stumbled on an extraordinary happening while seeking a way over the river Stour. There was a man tying a bouquet of flowers to a tree on the river bank. They said hello; he explained that his wife had died there four years before, after she had been afflicted by depression. It then seemed frivolous to ask for directions.

We all met up again at the lowest bridge. Under the returning sun were many hedges effulgent with still unpicked blackberries, suggesting that the locals are so exhausted by their commuting that they are not ever so in to preserves or pies or crumbles. Some, a few, were picked and carried home. Blackberries, that is. Puddings resurgent!
To the station with six mins to wait for the London train, a chance to admire the two-storey station car park, which Constable probably would not have painted. We had cloudscapes that he probably would have, or drawn.

Another nice outing. Next one up is the New Year Ramble on Saturday January 8th 2011. How time flies!

Words: Peter. Pictures: Annie(mostly)

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