Serving the communities of Bures St Mary and Bures Hamlet

The River Stour



The River Stour is one of the major rivers in Suffolk, which flows through the centre of the village.
It forms the county boundary between Essex to the south and Suffolk to the north.


The River Stour was made navigable as a commercial waterway in 1705 from Sudbury to the sea, unfortunately nearly all of the locks have disappeared. The river is eminently suitable for exploring by light craft. For practically the whole way the river runs through a wide valley with pleasant views. There are no large towns along the course. The Environment Agency have published bye-laws that prohibit the use of powered boats anywhere except on the stretch from Sudbury to Henny. These in turn are restricted to steam or electric power.

river stour
View along the River stour from the road bridge in the centre of village

The river rises in Cambridgeshire, North East of Haverhill at Wratting and follows a fifty mile course through Wixoe, Clare, Sudbury, Flatford and Dedham before it finally reaches the sea at Harwich. At Brantham (Cattawade Bridge) the river becomes tidal. For most of its journey it forms the Suffolk & Essex county boundary.


Since 1971, the Ely - Ouse to Essex transfer scheme has been used to augment the Rivers Stour and Blackwater by up to 340 Million gallons of water per day.
A vast amount of this water is then pumped to the reservoirs at Abberton and Hanningfield to supply South Essex and London.
Winter rain is stored in these two large reservoirs, which are drawn down in the summer months, when river flows are low.
Numerous pumping stations and bore holes along the river also extract water for local use.

New Transfer Scheme coming into operation 2014 - Link

River winds through Sudbury showing flood plain - Local flooding in wet weather.

There is a large flood plain between Sudbury - Henny and Bures with a further plain to the south either side of Bures Mill. The fields in these areas regularly flood in wet weather.
At Henny opposite the Swan PH in "Sharpfight Meadow" on the Suffolk side of the river, Boudicea caught up and slaughtered a entire Roman Legion.

The Stour has been famous for at least two reasons:-
(a) It was one of the first English rivers to be made navigable to barge traffic.
(b) Immortalised by the paintings of John Constable. He visited Bures regularly to see his grandfather, who lived in the village.

The river divides the village into two distinct halves, Bures Hamlet in Essex and Bures St Mary in Suffolk.
Downstream half a mile towards Nayland lies Bures Mill, no longer in commercial use but converted to a residential property. Further along lies Bures Lake which is popular with fishing enthusiasts. This was formed many years ago, when sand was extracted for the construction of the Ipswich Power Station (now demolished).

The future of the River Stour.
In March 2002 a lengthy feasibility study was put out for public consultation for the future management of the river.
A number of possible actions were canvassed.
(a) Minimum Action - to keep the river basically as it is today. Cost £35,000
(b) Light Craft Improvement - as above but with the addition of light craft. Cost £213,000
(c) Partial Restoration - Providing navigation with new, existing and restored locks. Cost £2,997.000
(d) Full restoration - Provide navigation the whole lenght for craft no larger than those who originally used it. Cost £9,359,000
(e) Restoration to the sea - as in (d) but with a new lock at Cattawade. Cost £12,624,000.

On the 15th February 2003 the Environment Agency opted to support (b) with a further study into the use of steam and electric powered craft

Today the river is only navigable from Bures towards Sudbury, its route south, being blocked by a sluice at Bures Mill.

rafy race
Steam Power at Bures Millennium Bridge
Raft Race, Bures Carnival
Boating on the river
Swans on the river