Author: Katherine Davies

Event Cancellations amidst COVID 19 Social Distancing

As we are all aware, the government has recently issued guidelines recommending restrictions against unnecessary social interactions and mass gatherings.

In line with this advice, the River Stour Festival has cancelled it’s own curated events up until the end of May. We will review as necessary if or when other events in the programme will need to be cancelled, in line with government guidelines.

We ask that our partners keep us updated of their own event cancellations, so we can remove listings from our website and programme as necessary.

Many thanks for your understanding, and best wishes at this challenging time.



Event Cancellations: Stour Surrounding Film Screenings

Unfortunately, due to recent advice regarding COVID-19 and social distancing, the Stour Surrounding Film Screenings that were due to take place at Clare Castle Country Park on Thursday 19th March and Christchurch Mansion on Wednesday 25th March have now been postponed until further notice.

A Day on Place at Essex Book Festival

The River Stour Festival is pleased to be involved in the ‘Day on Place’, part of Essex Book Festival, at Firstiste in Colchester this Sunday (15th March).

Unfortunately, due to family ill health, the previously scheduled ‘All at Sea?’ talk by Ken Worpole and Hana Loftus, which was due to take place from 11am to 12pm, has been cancelled (to be rescheduled later in the year).

The other two event’s are going ahead:

“Apples, Orchards and Community” with Adrian May and Marina O’Connell:

Hear Adrian May discuss how apples are closer to human life than Nature with a capital N. Can that tell us something useful about ourselves as part of the environment?  Marina O’Connell will  talk about how the back to the land movement is still relevant today with our climate crisis and in re-creating local food supplies. Followed by an open discussion, hosted by Ken Worpole around the subjects of apples, orchards and community.

“Blackwaterslide” with Ultramarine and Philip Terry

Ultramarine (Ian Cooper and Paul Hammond) present Blackwaterside, performing music inspired by their time working close to the Blackwater estuary. The performance will feature Philip Terry reading poems from his Quennets collection and a screening of the Blackwaterside film with live soundtrack based on the Survey East photography of Ian Cooper.



Calling all Stour Valley businesses!

An event especially for businesses in the Stour Valley!

A Forum for visitor-focussed businesses in the Stour Valley (Suffolk & Essex) to support growth, partnership and networking opportunities.
The forum will take place from 8.30 to 11.30am on Thursday 26th March, at Clare Park Lake Golf Course.

Including breakfast and after-forum business networking opportunities, leaflet exchange and marketplace for business stands. We are delighted to invite Stour Valley visitor-focussed businesses to attend.

Speakers include:

  • Simon Amstutz, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Manager
  • Alex Paul, Tourism & Hospitality Marketing Consultant
  • Clare – the ‘smallest town in Suffolk’ working together to attract visitors
  • Fiona Johnson, New Anglia Growth Hub
  • Dave Gooderham, Gooderham PR

Book your place now:

An update from Clare Castle Country Park

It is shaping up to be a busy year in Clare Castle Country Park. Our National Lottery Heritage Fund project is well underway with a new circular bench being installed to stand proudly at the top of our motte [pictured below], our play train being a new family favourite stopping point and Visitor Centre being designed to open just in time for Summer.

As these fantastic changes happen around us, we have also put together a jam-packed programme of events that taps into nature, history, heritage and general good family fun. Looking to spring we have an Easter model railway exhibition (10-13 April) in The Old Goods Shed. Working with the East Anglian Railway Museum and Sudbury District Model Railway Club we will be filling The Old Goods Shed with artefacts from our lost railway line and displaying wonderful models throughout the weekend. Open 10-4 Friday-Monday we expect this will be a great day out for all of the family.

We also have a brilliant programme of wood carving events thanks to The Woodland Haberdasher. You might be carving a teaspoon one day, whittling a butter knife the next and playing around with natural dyes the week after. Tickets are on sale for these events with some being specially hosted for families and others for grown ups looking to try out a new skill.

With a nod to our heritage, this May we’ve got a one-day special of longbow classes. Alan of Arnor Archery will be turning participants into Norman Knights for the day, shooting targets in the outer bailey where numerous flint arrowheads have been found in previous years’ archaeological excavations.

There is plenty more happening too such as our community bioblitz, regular kids craft mornings, community den building, art exhibitions and more. There is something for everyone in Suffolk’s most diverse country park so make sure you keep up to date by checking our website ( and social media.

We are also always on the lookout for volunteers so please get in touch if you’d like to find out more about how you can get involved with the Trust. We look forward to welcoming you in the coming months.

Outdoor and Environmental Learning in the Stour Valley

There are many organisations in the Stour Valley which provide some form of outdoor learning about the special qualities of the Stour Valley to children and young people either as formal or informal education. The Stour Valley Educational Network (SVEN) brings together the organisations involved in the delivery of environmental education and outdoor learning in the Stour Valley, in both Suffolk and Essex.  It is a forum for sharing ideas and best practice and to encourage wider involvement in environmental education and outdoor learning in the area.

A recent 2019 survey of SVEN partners has revealed that there is some wonderful education happening in the valley. The table below highlights the results from 15 partners:

335 school visits

114 community group visits

115 community events

14,200 children & young people engaged with some form of outdoor education
Most come from the villages within the Stour Valley then Sudbury, Manningtree, Colchester, Bury St Edmunds and Ipswich 75% study science topics, followed by geography, history and other activities e.g. forest school, art
The main age range is primary school, and most visits are annual Groups visit because they like the location, uniqueness of site and price of visit
Some SVEN partners provide activities for people with mental health needs and those not in education, employment or training. Some SVEN partners work with adults, children and young people with learning and physical disabilities.  Some work with ethnic minority groups and refugees.

 One event that attracts lots of families is Wild in the Stour Valley, on Friday 29th May 11:00am – 4:00pm, at Mill Acre Pond, Croft road, Sudbury CO10 1HR. A FREE hands-on family day out with lots of fantastic outdoor activities provided by SVEN partners such as kayaking, minibeast hunts, wild arts and crafts, chicks and pond dipping.

Stour Surrounding – Artists and the Valley

As part of the ‘Improving the Stour Valley for Visitors’ project, a new film aiming to celebrate the art heritage and artistic activities available in the valley has been made.

‘Stour Surrounding – Artists and the Valley’ is a documentary film that takes a look at artists both past and present who have responded to the landscape of the Stour Valley. In the film we hear how this special landscape – of Constable, Gainsborough and Munnings – continues to shape and speak to the work of contemporary artists today. Moving between studio interviews and beautiful footage across the valley we hear from painter and sculptor Maggi Hambling who speaks of ‘absorbing’ the landscape, and from Simon Carter, May Cornet and several others who talk expressively about how they respond to the Stour Valley and landscape in their own individual ways. Other contemporary artists featured include Michael Carlo, Chris Dobrowolski and Freddie Robins.

The film is currently being screened at various venues around East Anglia, including Ipswich, Great Yarmouth and Felixstowe. For more information about these screening events, please see our events listings. When this initial tour of viewings is finished, the film will be made available for community groups, schools, collages, art centres, libraries, galleries and venues to borrow for further showings.

The film has been produced by artist Jevan Watkins Jones with Offshoot Films.  It was commissioned by the ‘Improving the Stour Valley for Visitors’ project, which is hosted by the Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and Stour Valley Project and funded by The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.

For further information, please e-mail


Funding available for creative events within the Borough of Colchester

If you’re looking to deliver an event within the Colchester Borough area of the Stour Valley (as shown on the above map), then check out the ‘Colchester Creative Events Fund 2020-21’.

The Council is making available a total of £20,000 to support creative events taking place in the Borough of Colchester between 1st of May 2020 and 30th April 2021. This funding is available to events which complement the Council’s strategic aims and achieve at least two of the following objectives:

  • Deliver a high-quality cultural experience to a local audience
  • Develop and showcase local artistic talent
  • Encourage visitors to the Borough
  • Celebrate local communities

Registered charities constituted voluntary and community organisations, and not-for-profit groups and organisations are eligible to apply for this funding, requesting any amount between £200 and £1500. The closing date for applications is Sunday 19 January 2020.

For more information and the application form and guidelines, visit:

Don’t forget to send us details of your event, so that it can be listed within the River Stour Festival programme and promoted on your behalf.