The southern boundary of the county of Suffolk follows the Stour Valley, from its western edge bordering South Cambridgeshire all the way to the coast and the North Sea. The landscape along the Stour Valley has been the source of inspiration of many artists through the centuries; probably the most famous are Thomas Gainsborough and John Constable who gives his name to "Constable Country" a stretch of the Stour Valley that runs through Dedham Vale.
'Dedham Vale, view to Langham church from the fields just east of Vale Farm, East Bergholt' by John Constable
The Stour Valley's unique landscape and heritage is very special, but it is also in an area of expanding population and infrastructure. Managing what happens to the landscape in the 21st century is crucial for it to survive as an inspiration for future generations . . . Managing a Masterpiece is a 3 year project which brings together organisations throughout the area to "to conserve, celebrate and improve understanding of the Stour Valley".
There are many projects underway and planned for the future (I can recommend looking at the wonderful panoramic views from the church towers along the valley) and another event will happen this Friday (8th March 2013) in Sudbury, a small market town right on the River Stour and the birth place of Thomas Gainsborough; LIGHT NIGHT will celebrate the Stour Valley as inspiration for artists and writers through the centuries, in a series of light and video installation from the Market Square all the way down to the Quay Theatre on the banks of the River Stour . . . and I'm very excited because some of my linocuts and woodcuts will be included projected light installation on St Peter's Church tower. I'll try to take a video of it and show you next week.
Meanwhile, this has made me think about the landscape around my studio which is in the valley of the Stour Brook, a major tributory of the River Stour itself; I wondered where the source of the river is . . . there's an interesting web site about the Stour here . . . and I found that the main source of the Stour and the source of the Stour Brook are very close to each other on Wratting Common in South East Cambridgeshire. The Stour runs North before curving round to flow East and the Stour Brook flows from almost the same place, but South-West; the two channels join just before the village of Clare and then continue to Sudbury and on through Dedham Vale to the sea.
This afternoon I walked from my studio to Wratting Common, following the Stour Brook; on the way back I recorded the course of the stream in photographs, all the way back to where it passes our vegetable garden and flows past the end of The Wild Wood on its way to the North Sea . . .
If you couldn't view the video, you can also find it here.