Thursday, 15 November 2012

Mum's gone to Suffolk: Conflict in Constable Country

Flatford Mill

The stand-off occurred in the middle of a meadow a few metres from Flatford Mill. I sensed it would come as the Constable Country circular walk was shown to be 3 miles in my guide book and yet the very nice National Trust lady at the car park had commented there was a lovely 5 mile walk to Dedham and back. I tried to shush her at this point but I think, via osmosis and flapping ears, the teen in the back of the car had got wind of this increased mileage.

Flatford Mill itself was a beautiful, tranquil place and you could imagine how John Constable found inspiration for his paintings. His most famous, The Hay Wain, painted in 1821, shows Willy Lott's house and the River Stour.


Constable's "The Hay Wain"


Here's my shot taken from the same place:


Burgess' "Where's the Hay Wain?"


Notice the blue sky and white fluffy clouds. Unfortunately they didn't last long. Ten minutes later, in the meadow, about to sally forth towards Dedham, the sky darkened, the wind blew fiercely, stinging our faces, and as we followed the meander of the river, we realised the grass was boggy.

Rory stood his ground and declared he wasn't going any further. He didn't mind having a walk but not in this weather and not when he could see no shelter between the sign saying "45 minutes walk to Dedham" and the church in the distance. Dougie, full of adventurous spirit at first, started to waver as his ears were numb and he was the only one without a hat. I felt some urge to continue as it had been my idea to begin with, but I didn't want to ruin my boots in the muddy puddles.

We turned back.

To be fair, all three of us walked about 20 minutes in the other direction, with the wind behind us, on a proper path, feeling quite chipper but the enthusiasm eventually waned so we shuffled back to the car and the bewildered National Trust lady.


It was a short drive to Dedham and there was a free car park just on the edge of the village. So much more civilised. We had soup and coffee at the Dedham Arts and Crafts Centre, mooched about looking at the shops and then, while photographing Dedham church, I stepped in a fresh pile of dog mess. I tried in vain to get rid of it on the grass verge but the tread in my boots was quite deep so the cack was wedged. Dougie, exasperated, led me to the churchyard and sat me on a tombstone while he lifted my leg up and gouged out the poop with a stick. Rory disowned us.

On the way back to the hotel we took a short diversion south of Ipswich to Shotley Gate, following a suggestion made by fellow blogger, Troy. Perfectly positioned  on a peninsula, at the estuaries of the rivers Stour and Orwell, Shotley Gate marina is a great spot to park up and look over the water to Felixstowe, the container port, and Harwich, the ferry port. Troy was right, it was well worth a trip: so different from the picture postcard locations around Flatford and Dedham but fascinating all the same.

I'm sure Constable would have agreed.






Share/Bookmark

24 comments:

  1. There must have been a drought on when Constable did his painting. You could never get a horse and cart to wade in the river in your photo. Maybe they were having a dose of global warming before time.

    I hope your boots recovered. I did the same in Nice and had to go to the port to swish my feet in the water to wash off the offending poo or not be allowed in the car. People who don't clear up after their dogs should be made to walk in it until it's dried and caked into their best shoes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Indeed! I bet Constable didn't go wandering about in the boggy meadows in the 1800s either.

      I was quite surprised there was a fair bit of dog mess in the village. Either that or one 'loose' dog and its inconsiderate owner.

      Delete
  2. Hard to believe the weather was so terrible looking at your gorgeous pic!
    Any regret about your lack of stamina? It might have saved you from the dog poo disaster... ;) xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You wouldn't have believed the change in the weather. It didn't actually rain but it looked as if we were going to get soaked from above and underfoot.
      No regrets: we'd have ploughed through mud up to our knees if we'd continued!

      Delete
  3. Lucky you, walking a Constable painting and having a husband who'd clean your boots.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Great post. I'm ashamed to say I have a pair of shoes at the front door with cack in the grooves. I hate poo with a passion and although I got most of it off on the grass verge before walking through the door, I can't bring myself to look at them now. I don't quite know what I'm hoping will happen, so I suppose I'd better don about three pairs of rubber gloves and stick a clothes peg on my nose.....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Don't you just hate dog poo - the smell is just awful. Thankfully Dougie is the cack-scrubber-offer in this house. He's so used to dealing with the human variety in his job that he's less likely to retch.

      Delete
  5. I am so glad that you and the lads are a little like us....the spirit is willing but sometimes the body is weak and good intentions can now and again be put aside in order to drive instead or eat cake!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's good that we were able to take a family decision on whether to go on and Rory's opinion was just as valid as ours. We did have cake after our soup and it was lovely. We still got plenty of fresh air over the whole break so driving to Dedham was a great decision!

      Delete
  6. When my 82 year old father came to visit I took him on the walk from Dedham to Flatford Mill and he wasn't over impressed by how far it was or how boggy it was in parts despite my assurances "its just a brisk 1 hour round trip".

    Glad you liked Shotley Gate. In the summer the whole estuary is full of yachts and motor boats and there are plenty of comings and goings through the marina lock gates. We potter down there (20 minute drive) quite often on a Sunday afternoon. The weather looks nice and sunny in your photos.

    I remember as a child there being a lot more dog poo around than there is nowadays. Once trod is some before getting on the bus and was very vocal about the smell until I realised who's shoe it was on. The other kids then threw me off the bus and I had to walk home.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Can't believe I wrote "who's" rather than "whose" in the comment above.

      Delete
  7. Your 82 year old father did the walk?Now that's put me to shame.

    The weather was only poor for about an hour whilst we were faffing about in the fields. The trip down to Shotley Gate was lovely - so nice to see the boats in the estuary and travel over that huge bridge too.

    Love your poo story. My son did his work experience at a solicitors' office and trod dog poo into the office on his first day. I asked him if he'd cleaned it up and he said he had scraped most of it off on the mat by the door. I was mortified but I don't think they knew he was to blame,

    ReplyDelete
  8. Being a painter Constable would have been very sensible when it came to the British weather... after all he is not known for being a water colourist...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Of course, he would only have ventured out in the summer with his easel. What were we thinking, trudging over Dedham Vale in November.

      Delete
  9. All this brisk striding around in weather clement and inclement just sounds so charmingly British(sorry for stereotyping), although I have to say the dog poop was unexpected. For some reason, those idyllic novels I read about picturesque English villages never include poop. I like the reality check. It still sounds like a lovely trip, and Dougie deserves some sort of an award, I think.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Indeed, you don't hear of Mr Darcy saying to Elizabeth Bennet, 'Forsooth, dear lady, I will walk with you across the meadow but first I must remove the shite from my boots.'

      Delete
    2. From memory he just jumped in the lake so perhaps he had got it elsewhere than just on his boots?

      Delete
    3. They must have had a bloody big dog at Pemberley.

      Delete
  10. That countryside really is as beautiful as a painting - or is it the other way around. We have those big loading cranes in Oakland as well. When George Lucas saw them (he lives in San fran) it inspired him to do Star Wars (or so they say...)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I didn't know that about Star Wars but I can see why he was inspired.

      Delete
  11. I once trod in fox shit (even more sticky and pungent than good old fashioned dog shit) and then stomped round the house demanding to know who had been so careless. I was not popular! Fab photos as ever!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ooh fox shit! I should start a survey of types of poo and how difficult they are to remove from footwear.

      Delete

If you'd like to leave a comment I would love to hear from you. I always try to reply to each one. To avoid spam, I moderate all comments before publishing.