Dedham: Vale bus venture just the ticket for green travel

Officials and guests gathered for the launch of the Dedham Vale Hopper in High Street, Dedham

Officials and guests gathered for the launch of the Dedham Vale Hopper in High Street, Dedham - Credit: Archant

An innovative bus service is set to help combat the curse of car congestion in Constable Country.

About 220,000 visitors are attracted to the famous Dedham Vale area on the Suffolk and Essex border each year, bringing in millions of pounds for the local economy but often clogging up narrow country lanes with thousands of vehicles.

The bus service, which begins on Tuesday next week, will encourage car-free visits for the tourists who flock to the Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) – and help local people who need transport to and from the area’s communities.

The Dedham Vale AONB and Stour Valley Project – the organisation which aims to protect and enhance the special qualities of the area – has re-launched the Dedham Vale Hopper which links Manningtree rail station with Flatford, East Bergholt, Stratford St Mary, Dedham, Lawford and Manningtree town centre.

The service has a 16-seater Mercedes Benz diesel minibus. It will be operated by the vehicle’s owners, the Hadleigh Community Transport Group, which has run all but one of the previous Dedham Vale Hopper services since the scheme was piloted in 2005.

The group recently purchased the six-month-old minibus for £60,000 as an addition to its fleet and will run it on the Dedham Vale route as well as other services it operates.

The Hopper initiative offers a greener way of exploring Dedham Vale, with the chance of linking up with other car-free travel options such as rail transport, the River Stour Trust’s electric-powered boat trips and ferry service and the Langham-based Coolpedals cycle hire business.

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Assistant Dedham Vale AONB officer Paula Booth said the venture was funded by a Suffolk and Essex “cross-border partnership” involving Tendring District Council, Colchester Borough Council, the Essex and South Suffolk Community Rail Partnership, the Managing a Masterpiece Heritage Lottery Fund project, the Dedham Vale AONB and Suffolk County Council.

The aim was to promote sustainable tourism, provide a link to local businesses and help meet local people’s transport needs.

“While we do not want to tell people they must leave their car behind, this is all about offering people a different option,” she said.

One of the initiative’s supporters, Essex county councillor for the authority’s Constable division, Anne Brown, praised the Hopper bus venture for its potential benefit of easing traffic congestion.

The chairman of the council’s Colchester local highways panel, she said there were serious traffic concerns in places such as Dedham’s main street, where there were fears of pedestrian and traffic conflict.

“We are trying to get a 20mph speed limit through the village and down to the river because there are so many walkers and so many cars. At bank holidays it is a nightmare. We get about 200,000 visitors a year here and we have got to protect safety in the village.”

The Hopper service will run from Manningtree rail station on the hour every hour, from 10am to 4pm, on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. There will be a flat fare of £3 for adults, with concessions, and children under 16 will ride for free. The service will be operated until September 29. Further information is available by emailing bus@hadleigh.org or visiting www.dedhamvalestourvalley.org