The Suffolk & Essex River Stour is one of the country’s oldest statutory navigations following an Act of Parliament that was passed during the reign of Queen Anne in 1705. This right was almost taken away over 50 years ago but a group formed to successfully retain the right of navigation for the benefit of the public. This group comprised founding members of the River Stour Trust and their achievement has enabled thousands of people to discover and enjoy this world-famous river. Today the navigation is administered by EA for the section of the Stour that runs from Brundon Mill (upstream of Sudbury in Suffolk) to Cattawade (near Manningtree in Essex). Smaller craft, such as canoes and kayaks, are able to navigate the entire stretch (approximately 25 miles) by portaging around the various waterway structures while powered craft, with certain specified exemptions, are currently restricted to the 3-mile stretch between Ballingdon Bridge and Great Henny.
The River Stour Trust is a registered charity dedicated towards the restoration, conservation and education of the Suffolk & Essex River Stour Navigation. The trust seeks to improve overall river access: to educate the public on the importance and benefits of the navigation; and to reinstate navigation for larger craft, particularly small electric boats, along the entire stretch of the navigation requiring a change to the bye-laws alongside reinstating the locks. So far, the trust has restored four of the 13 derelict locks (including the three Constable locks at Flatford, Dedham and Stratford St Mary) and continues to maintain the structures in its care for the benefit of navigation users.
The trust’s enthusiastic, knowledgeable and fully trained volunteers help to actively encourage the use of the river. One of its most popular activities is the boat trips that offer a unique perspective of Constable Country. The fleet comprises environmentally friendly electric boats, a couple of wheelchair-accessible boats and a restored Stour Lighter.
The trust also owns vital river access points and manages a couple of riverside venues, all of which are available to the local community and visitors alike. The historic granary building is home to the Sudbury trip-boats and tea room while also being a venue for private functions, including weddings. The purpose-built Visitor Education Centre, situated adjacent to Great Cornard Lock, enables a range of educational activities for all ages on and off the river. The trust’s flagship event, Sudbury to the Sea (S2C), welcomes up to 300 craft to navigate the river over the course of a weekend, while other events throughout the year help to raise awareness and funds, as well as to encourage the use and appreciation of the river.
The Suffolk & Essex River Stour has a long history that the trust intends to preserve for generations to come.