We work to safeguard the special qualities of the Dedham Vale that led to its designation as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. [View Map]
The following are special qualities of the Vale that are officially recognised. The Vale is an iconic lowland river valley associated with John Constable RA, England's finest landscape artist. The views he painted are still recognisable today. The vale has historic villages with timber-framed housing and prominent churches, grazing marshes and ditches associated with wildlife. The River Stour is naturally functioning with tributaries, meres and historic river management features. The Vale has semi-natural ancient woodland and associated wildlife, traditional field boundaries, apparent and buried archaeology indicating millennia of human occupation. It has a sense of relative tranquillity and long-distance views from higher ground in an area associated with large skies.
By becoming a member you are helping us to protect and explain this unique part of the English countryside, as we have done for 80 years. As we move into our ninth decade, increasing our membership enables us to continue the work we do to preserve this area for current and future generations. We are all volunteers and we are constantly looking for more help.
Download the form on our membership page, print and complete it and send to our membership secretary. All the details you will need are on the form. Membership costs just £10 a year for one person and £15 a year for two people living at the same address.
We provide our members with a twice-yearly newsletter and invitations to events such as our Summer Party and Autumn Lecture as well as the Annual General Meeting after which there is always a talk by an expert with special knowledge of the Vale. Membership fees contribute to a fighting fund which we are trying to build up in case we have to fight a public inquiry or launch a judicial review.
The lion's share of what we do is the day-to-day monitoring of planning applications that affect the Vale and making relevant comments to the planning authorities. This is done by our two planning secretaries. We also run campaigns, such as our initiative to extend the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty to the west and to get the Vale internationally recognised as a Dark Sky Park. In past decades we have campaigned successfully to make air traffic controllers take due account of the tranquility of the Vale when devising air corridors. In the case of major and controversial planning applications, such as the proposed extension of the Konings factory in Polstead, we support local groups while reminding planners of the special qualities protected by the nationally-important AONB designation.
An area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) is an area of countryside in England Wales or Northern Ireland designated for conservation because of its significant landscape value. There are 46 overall, 33 in England.
The Dedham Vale was put forward as an AONB in 1966 by the relevant local authorities after a national battle fought by our society to prevent 'London overspill' housing proposed for the villages of Dedham, Langham and East Bergholt. The AONB was eventually designated in 1970.
The AONB stretches along the River Stour for nearly 14 miles between Wormingford and Manningtree, on both sides of the Essex-Suffolk border, and includes Dedham, East Bergholt, Nayland, Stoke-by-Nayland and other historic villages. It covers an area of approximately 35 square miles.
We are a registered charity and have a committee and two planning secretaries who meet quarterly. Their names are listed in every issue of the newsletter. Sub-committees are sometimes formed to tackle specific issues. We are run by volunteers, take no money from local or central government and are totally independent.