If you want to cover some ground then you could try the Dedham to Flatford route which follows the River Stour all the way to Flatford Mill. At just 3 miles roundtrip, the paddle isn’t too strenuous and therefore great for kayakers with less time or those still developing their skills.
While visiting you could check out the Constable Museum for a nose around or grab a delicious cream tea in the picturesque surroundings.
For those of a less energetic bent then splashing about at Flatford Mill is fine. In fact this is a good place to bring kids as it’s a great introductory kayaking spot and perfect for getting them involved.
Worth taking note is if you’re planning on starting your session from the Flatford Mill end then you’ll have to pay the National Trust car park charge. The walk to the launch spot is then a good few hundred metres while trying to avoid tourists during summer.
During high season the paddle is extremely leisurely. Watch out if the sluice gates are open in winter as the Stour will then be in flood and becomes a trickier route for the novice.
How to get there:
Head towards Colchester in Essex then follow directions for Dedham. Flatford Mill is located roughly half way between Dedham, Brantham and Manningtree.
Dedham has a free car park but can get extremely busy during peak periods. There are toilet facilities and a coffee shop for those needing lubrication.
Flatford has snacks and refreshments available with toilets onsite. Car parking is chargeable.
Be aware if the sluice gates are open on the Stour. The river will be in flood and more challenging to the inexperienced paddler. At other times of year you may be faced with rowing boats being navigated badly, the occasional cow taking a drink or the odd swan. It goes without saying, be mindful of disturbing wildlife.
Ins and Outs:
You can launch either at Dedham or Flatford. Dedham has a free car park and is less of a walk with your kit whereas Flatford is a paid car park and more of a struggle with your gear. It may however be the best option if you plan on exploring the Constable Museum in drier clothes at the end of your paddle.
The Environment Agency states that you will need to register your boat with them so as to be able to use it on the River Stour. Check their website for more details – http://environment-agency.gov.uk/homeandleisure/recreation/130788.aspx
Flatford Mill is in the heart of John Constable country. The inspiration and subject for many of his famous paintings, Flatford offers the chance of easy going paddling while taking in the charming and historical countryside. For those looking at a more gentile kayaking experience then this spot definitely fits the bill.