The tranquil landscape of the River Stour valley, the setting for many of the paintings of the renowned artist John Constable, was officially designated the Dedham Vale Area of Natural Beauty by the Countryside Commission in 1969. The Vale stretches for nearly 14 miles on either side of the river, from Manningtree in the east to Wormingford in the west. However, even its official status as an AONB does not protect it from the constant threat of development, both from housing and commerce, traffic and noise and light pollution.
It all began in 1938 when a proposal was made to demolish the coaching-arch at the Sun Inn in Dedham High Street to enable vehicles to have easier access to the car-park at the rear. Opposition was both vehement and widespread and the proposal was subsequently withdrawn. But the lesson had been learned and people realised that the heritage of the Dedham Vale and its villages needed protection and the Society came into being.
The Society's influence has been widespread and many campaigns have been fought with a great deal of success. Bodies such as the water and electricity-generating companies, building-developers and, most recently, the Civil Aviation Authority have all been persuaded that their proposals have not been in the interest of the fragile nature of this tiny AONB.
Pressure for change is immense, driven by the inexorable rise in the numbers of people moving to the south-east of England and those with commercial interests seeking opportunities to invest. The minor roads of the Vale are becoming even busier to cope with traffic generated by the development in both housing and industry creeping nearer to the edge of the valley from Colchester to the south and Ipswich to the north.
Light pollution has become a serious problem in recent years and despite the best efforts of highway engineers to install more energy-efficient road-lighting systems, the night-sky is disappearing. New sources of this modern curse are golf-driving ranges and the illumination of the docks at Felixstowe and, imminently, Bathside Bay container terminal at Harwich.
In addition, of course, the Society is ever-vigilant about the day-to-day planning applications which inevitably arise and require comment to the relevant authorities.
The Dedham Vale Society has 4 officers, 2 planning secretaries and a committee, who meet 4 times a year. Their names are listed under 'Contact Us' in the navigation menu. Sub-committees are sometimes formed to tackle specific issues.
An Annual General Meeting is held at a local village hall, usually in September, at which the official business of the Societyâ€™s work during the year is discussed. The meeting is followed by a talk by a guest speaker and refreshments. Members are most welcome to attend and participate. We also hold a summer party for members and potential new members at an attractive venue in the Vale.