River Stour, source to sea.

 Our research had showed that the petite Suffolk/Essex river Stour started life from a field draining ditch emerging from a pipe at 380 feet above sea level in West Wickham, Cambridgeshire. As an added bonus there is a 60 mile long walking trail, The Stour Valley Path, which as its name implies tracks the river’s valley. So we picked out three campsites along the river’s way. The campsites were chosen for their position to be able to walk from them to the river and its nearby attractions. Also as the rivers overall length is less than a couple of hour’s drive some of its waterside villages could be explored on route between campsites.

So we drove off in late August to search out The Source of the River Stour. Having already put the coordinates in Garmin it was plain sailing to leave the main roads for the tiny minor lanes and locate The Source.

A bit of an anti-climax really. No sign or marker post to fanfare this rivers birth, only open fields alongside a dusty country lane. Walking a few yards into the field to a ditch there’s a brick pipe, with what can only be described as an occasional dribble leaving it.

Watching as the trickle disappeared into the distance, along the ditch in front of me it was hard to imagine that within a few miles it would become  a fully-fledged river with boats sailing or working on it.



With stage one tucked under our belts we drove off to our first campsite at Glemsford, a short distance south-east. On the way stopping at the lovely village of Clare, for our first sighting and walk alongside the now micro River Stour as it passed under a photographic blue bridge with its perfect reflection in the sunlit water.

Then onwards to the time capsule campsite of Clock House Farm.This was to be our base camp for a while as we explored the lanes and fields around Glemsford village




One bright sunny morning with the forecast of a settled day we walked down the lane to Cavendish to pick up The Stour Valley Path and follow it beside the river for a while, before playing tourist in the village itself. The “Path” took us behind period cottages with lovely gardens slopping down to the river’s edge. Eventually crossing Pentlow Bridge to return to Cavendish through a riverside field where, quite oblivious to us, a herd of goats grazed. Passing an old mill with its weir and pool, we emerged near the village pond.At first glance the Sue Ryder charity shop seemed out of place in the idyllic setting of Cavendish’s old English charm, until we remembered this was the good lady’s resting place. The village church has a restful light coloured interior with a plaque to Sue Ryder. After checking for her graves location we eventually found it in the village’s second graveyard.

The cottages (some with wonderful stylish chimney stacks), pubs, church and the aptly named “Duck or Grouse” general store all surround the large village green.

Leaving Glemsford campsite we drove on to the delights of the old market town of Sudbury. The street market held in the town centre was awash with stalls and people, still we managed to park down near the River Stour and the old Mill.

Then again walking on the “Path” as it followed the river bank, this time through the ancient common water meadows between The Croft and The Old Mill (now a hotel). You are now walking on the ground the famous painters of the past have trod, names such as Constable and Gainsborough.

Next on the list of villages to see was Bures, lying on the Essex/Suffolk border, divided by our companion, the River Stour. In times past when the pubs on one side of the bridge called “time gentlemen please”, men would cross the river to enjoy the other county’s later license hours. Driving there along the windy narrow lane you notice on the way that both the pubs of the villages of Henny (the Swan )and Lamarsh(the Lion) have the River Stour meandering over from the meadows to be near their front doors, so forming an added attraction for the pubs beer gardens.

Reaching our second campsite of the trip at Assington was a bit like coming home, as we had visited here several times before. The four days we spent there were mostly taken up visiting family, who lived nearby and some local walking, the latter usually incorporating The Shoulder of Mutton pub for liquid refreshment.

Driving the short distance to Nayland we parked on the edge of the village in a very convenient layby opposite the Valley Path and our friend, the River Stour.

Joining the Path by the bridge we followed the river under lovely weeping willow trees and passed a flight of four weirs, all the while seeming to be in no hurry as it slowly flowed behind this village to the next. Nayland’s main streets were well worth a stroll round, again unspoilt by modern housing development.

The old church and the appropriately named river-side Anchor pub along with a butcher, post office and general store meant most needs could be met.

Driving on, with the sparkling waters of our river ever beside us, we passed through pretty Stoke by Nayland and Stratford St.Mary to arrive at our third and last campsite at Ardleigh. From here we drove on to the delights of nearby Flatford Mill, where for the all in price of £3.50 we could park and enjoy the famous buildings and river walks.



You do really need to have a dry hour or two whilst there as most of the pleasure is derived from walking along the Stour’s banks and viewing the Mill’s pool, lock and the building exteriors themselves.


Willy Lott’s cottage, The Old Mill and the Pool seem to step out of John Constable’s paintings. In the Bridge Cottage we looked round an exhibition of the great man and his work. With a quaint gift shop, teas and refreshment area and short boat trips it’s a worthwhile place to visit.

With the skies starting to darken it seemed prudent to drive on to watch our now fully fledged River Stour as it joined forces with the tidal estuary at the flood sluices and Nature Reserve at Cattawade. Crossing over The White Bridge into Essex again, then through pretty Manningtree, we reached our challenges end at Mistley, (a little disappointed that the tide was out, so not seeing the Stour Estuary’s full high tide splendour with the yachts tugging at their moorings,



 instead of lying on the seabed unable to move. Looking seaward and beyond the low tide mudflats to the huge working cranes of Felixstowe and Harwich docks, they appeared to be nodding in the mist, their welcome to the quiet calm River Stour’s water to its future in the more industrious and sometimes menacing North Sea.


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