Welcome to 'contrail country'

THEY are the big skies that inspired John Constable and turned the weather into an impressive art form.But these pictures show that far from the dramatic, kinetic mass of clouds that loomed over the artist's landscapes, the sky above Dedham Vale is now criss-crossed with contrails.

THESE are the big skies that inspired John Constable two centuries ago.

But these pictures show that far from the dramatic, kinetic mass of clouds that loomed over the artist's landscapes, the sky above Dedham Vale is now criss-crossed with contrails.

Although theoretically classed as clouds, the trails of condensation left behind jet aircraft would have been far too geometric for Constable and show the effects of the industrialisation he so wanted to escape from in his rural idylls.

To John Jeffreys, who has lived there for 30 years, they are testimony to the number of aircraft flying over this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.


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The East Bergholt resident said he took the spectacular pictures to disprove the view that peace and tranquillity in Dedham Vale, in the heart of Constable Country, has been achieved at the expense of other places.

Residents living in the vale had brought legal action against the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) over the nuisance caused by aircraft flying above the area.

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Settled in the High Court last year, the authority and National Air Traffic Services, which manages airspace use, agreed that in any future reorganisation of flight paths they would have due regard to the protected area in north Essex and south Suffolk and the rivers Stour and Orwell.

But Mr Jeffreys said: “The level of air traffic, whilst variable, continues to grow and gives cause for concern for the future if flight levels continue to expand.

“We have periods where the noise of flights can be heard continuously one after the other. The level of noise is such that at times it can be heard over the sound of radio and TV indoors with the double glazed windows and doors shut, for example in winter.”

But he said air traffic was only one aspect of the noise impacting on the fragile environment.

“When the prevailing wind is in the wrong direction the noise of A12 traffic is even more intrusive,” he said.

“Whilst this is weather related - wind direction - on a bad day it is continuous. It is to be hoped that this situation will improve when the county council resurface the road with a quieter surfacing material.”

A CAA spokesman said: “The outcome of the judicial review did not mean that there would not be any traffic over the vale.”

He said contrails were formed from aircraft flying at heights of at least 25,000ft - with most at 30,000 to 40,000ft.

This is a different airspace to the lower heights that were subject to the review and aircraft would not be heard when flying at 25,000ft and above, he explained.

The planes making the vapour trails would therefore be those flying over the UK rather than those flying at lower heights to land at airports, such as those at Stansted or London.

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