Dedham Vale is just to the North of Colchester, right on the border between Essex and Suffolk. It also happens to be an area of outstanding national beauty and as every – when you see that signifier on the map it’s worth a look. Rolling hills, winding lanes barely a car-width wide, farms, fields and streams as far as the eye can see.
It is here that we have spent the last week with Georgie’s family, soaking up the country life, exploring Suffolk’s countryside and towns.
As is to be expected when you have two budding ultra runners in the house is that we were on Strava and Viewranger as soon as we got here to see if there are any good trails nearby. Quite quickly we realised that we’d picked a holiday home located a stone’s throw from the Stour Valley Path, a 100km path from Newmarket to Cattawade, a village near Manningtree (there’s even the Stour Valley Path Ultra that covers the distance that I’ve now added to my bucket list).
We’ve been exploring the path for the past week and I wanted to share some routes and photos:
- 6ish miles up and down the Stour Valley Path between Stoke by Nayland and Higham – includes the fun climb up Bad Dog Hill – where I did my very best to beat the Strava CR of 2:41 on my runs that passed through it – but to no avail! The best I could muster was a 2:50 – any more and my lungs might have burst
- a 5-mile loop around our house on Chapel Lane that started out as a little exploration across the fields, detoured onto some farmlands (oops!) and finished off with a relaxed run along the country lanes and a public footpath across a freshly harvested field
- a 10 mile out-and-back along the Stour Valley Path (although I have to admit that I lost it at the end!). The photo below is from the top of Bad Dog Hill – and the one after is the view that rewards you as you try to get your heart-rate down and have it beat inside your chest rather than somewhere on the trail…
- and to finish off a fabulous week of running, a half-marathon combining the Stour Valley Path, the Essex Way and a bunch of footpaths, bridle ways and country lanes
Just a note on that last photo: turns out the fear of being skewered by 800kg bull is incredibly motivating! I was through that field in no time at all 🙂
Where to stay
If you’re looking for a place to stay, I can highly recommend Idyllic Suffolk and their property called The Presbytery. Well within reach of London and only an hour or so away from the coast, this lovely cottage was the perfect base for the six of us, plus our dog and a baby (not ours).