Staycation paddlers bring fresh life to river immortalised by John Constable

Sales of canoes, kayaks and paddleboards have soared this year with more people staying closer to home, taking to the water rather than the skies.

The River Stour has seen an increase in visitors, which has been a welcome sight to the volunteers who help to maintain it.

Flatford Lock, one of the locks restored by the trust Credit: ITV Anglia

Its popularity is due both to scenery immortalised in the paintings of John Constable and the hard work of the River Stour Trust who protect the public’s right to use it.  

The Hay Wain by John Constable
The scene of the Hay Wain as it looks today Credit: ITV Anglia

Instructor Matty Hurrell runs lessons on the river in Dedham and says business has been booming.

Matty Hurrell - Instructor Credit: ITV Anglia

Almost double the amount of people wanting to enter the sport. Since lockdown I think people appreciate what we have here in the UK, such as this beautiful river and this countryside of Dedham and they just want to be out there and taste it really.

Matty Hurrell, Instructor

Navigation rights to the river from Sudbury in Suffolk to Manningtree in Essex date back to 1705 and those rights still exist today thanks to the work of dedicated volunteers at the River Stour Trust.  They’ve built and restored locks, opening up a further 10 miles of the river.

It would have been lost due to the efforts of the Anglian water authority in the 1970s to try and close it down but the Trust and other organisations helping us, stopped that happening.

Mike Finch River Stour Trust

Once a year the Trust brings together a group of experienced and novice paddlers for the Sudbury to Sea event to reinforce that right to navigation. 300 crafts usually take part.  This year it was just 100, due to coronavirus restrictions.

The Government need proof that the river is in use for it to be maintained as a navigable river so the River Stour Trust started this event to make sure there was always once a year lots of people using the river so they can prove to the Government that this river is worth maintaining because it’s so lovely.

Seb Cailes, Sudbury to Sea event organiser

Currently, through navigation between Sudbury and Manningtree is only achievable by craft that can be portaged such as canoes and kayaks.

The River Stour Trust seeks to reinstate through navigation, improve river access points and campaign  for a change to the byelaws to permit small, electric boats on the whole stretch of the River Stour.