Go with the flow: Jonathan Schofield explores the River Stour
PUBLISHED: 13:32 22 July 2014
From its boggy source in Cambridgeshire to its magnificent entrance to the North Sea at Harwich, the River Stour snakes its way through 47 miles of East Anglian countryside. One of England's most beautiful rivers, it has brought both wealth, in the form of wool and bricks, and fear, from Viking raiding parties who used the river to plunder deep into the county. Today the Stour Lighters that once plied their trade along its waters have been replaced with kayaks, canoes and rowboats. If you're yet to experience the delights of the Stour now is the time to get on, or in, the river.
Two men in a bathtub
My decision to splash out on a canoe was inspired by two men in a bathtub. Wandering along the banks in Sudbury one afternoon I spotted the men struggling to move the bath, complete with taps, downstream.
“We’re just seeing if it’s seaworthy,” shouted one of the paddlers, “We’re taking part in the Sudbury to the Sea event next month to raise money for charity.”
I believe they made it, and if they could do it, so could I – although not in a bathtub. The following year I loaded my tent and dog into my new canoe and alongside 300 other crews in every type of craft - from coracles to rafts - paddled the 26-mile route.
Run by the River Stour Trust, Sudbury to the Sea takes place in September and is a wonderful, very sociable way to explore the Stour.
For more than 40 years the charity
has worked to preserve, restore and improve river access for everyone.
Successful projects include the restoration of the locks at Flatford, Dedham and Great Cornard, the Quay Basin at Sudbury and the restoration of a Stour Lighter - the John Constable - which recently joined the charity’s flotilla of boats.
The Trust offers a range of trips on environmentally friendly electric powered boats between Sudbury, Great Cornard and Great Henny, and further downstream between Stratford St Mary, Flatford, Dedham and Brantham. The boats, which can also be be hired for private charter, run between March and October. With their silent running engines, the experience is one of the most relaxing ways to explore the Stour.
n For more information visit the trust’s excellent website at www.riverstourtrust.org for details on boat trips, current projects and details of the range of events run by the charity throughout the year.
Row, row, row your boat
If you’re looking for a shorter trip to while away a sunny, Sunday afternoon, head for the Boathouse Restaurant on the banks of the Stour in Dedham.
The restaurant has a fleet of 30 traditional clinker rowboats for hire to explore the stretch of river in the heart of Constable country.
From the Boathouse it’s just a mile and a half row to Flatford Mill. That’s if you can draw yourself away from the fantastic food, drink and ice cream served in the award winning restaurant and kiosk on the riverbank.
n For more information go to
www.dedhamboathouse.com or call
The River Stour: An East Anglian River and its People, by Russell Edwards
The Essex and Suffolk River Stour Navigation, by John Marriage