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Dedham River Stour 

Flatford, CO7 6UL
9th August 2020
2.4km Social River Swim and Picnic
Entry £17.50
The picnic's FREE (bring your own picnic), bring cake to share!.
*Coronavirus - No risk entry* If this event has to be postponed you will be offered the choice of either a complete refund, including admin fee, or a deferment to any of next year's Slow Swims
aboutThe Dedham to Flatford Mill 2 Mill Swim and Picnic isn't a race. It's a social swim and a picnic at Flatford Mill, in the heart of idyllic Constable Country. The only difference is to get to the picnic you have to swim from Dedham Mill 2.4km away. The Mill 2 Mill is part of the Slow Swimming campaign, aimed at encouraging swimmers to take their time and enjoy the opportunity to be out fully immersed in nature. There are no timing chips or results sheets. Everyone who takes part is a winner equally.
We are very keen to get children used to, and enjoying, swimming outdoors. This will improve their safety in and around water and should encourage them to be lifelong outdoor swimmers. There isn't an age restriction as such, but obviously we would be depending on your adequate supervision of anyone under 16. I would very much recommend that they wear a wettie, as children lose heat quicker than adults when in water, and unless they are very good swimmers a form of buoyancy aid.
To give everyone an enjoyable swim the event is split into waves. Each wave will go off at  intervals from 10:30am.
Wave 1: Seriously Need More Cake (Known as Serious), start at 10.30am. Choose this wave if you would like to actually race, but be prepared for a bit of a scrum in the narrow sections.
Wave 2: Relaxed 'cause we know where the cake is hidden (Known as Relaxed). Steady pace - no rush.
Wave 3
: Enjoying the Journey (Known as Enjoying it). Sculling along, maybe with a bit of paddling, smiling and chatting.
Wave 4
: Pooh Sticks. Basically it's for people who want to really enjoy the scenery and float along using floaty things (nothing bigger than a lilo please) and stick out the occasional hand or foot to paddle. It could be as little as arm bands or a rubber ring.
Wave 5: Pooh Sticks A-bridged (do you see what we did there?). Same as the Pooh Sticks we all love but from Fen Bridge to Flatford Mill, approximately half the distance (1.2km) Still a challenge. Starting out 45 mins after wave 4 has started from the Dedham Mill Pond.
The original gang
2013The Mill 2 Mill Swim started in 2013 with a bunch of friends getting together and just deciding to do it. So out came the wetties (it was September) and sandwiches were made, bottles of ginger beer were packed and it happened. The official 'start list' only had six starters and luckily an equal number of finishers.
2014We opened up participation in 2014 to friends of friends, and to friends of friends of friends, and before we knew it 50 people had entered. Even through Britain was hit by the tail of hurricane Bertha that weekend, most turned up and had a fab time. After all how much wetter could you get?
There was a spectacular display of lightening and massive showers most of the swim, but the afternoon brightened up as the last swimmers were coming in and the NT tea shop by the finishing bridge at Flatford Mill did a roaring trade in tea and cake.
2015Word of the picnic at the end of Dedham Vale had started to spread, with mentions in outdoor magazines websites, so when the entry opened in November with 150 places, it fully booked in 4 weeks.
With greater numbers and lots of spectators we started from the mill pond at Dedham, rather than the car park and finished in the picnic field rather than swimming under the bridge.
The weather was great, starting off very sunny and ending with fluffy clouds. Very much a John Constable painting.
 2016Loads of interest right from the moment the entry opened. In the end we had 220 swimmers sign in.
The weather was ideal, just as we had ordered, with white fluffy clouds and sunshine. The river was a bit chilly and a little lower than we are used, but a large number of the swimmers braved the temperature and swam in cossies, while otheres enjoyed the luxery of wetties.
All but one finished the swim in the river, with both the male and female course records being broken. (Male 27:30, Female 32:32)
2017Another clasic British summer's day. Sunny with whispy clouds. The river level had dropped a bit in recent weeks, but for two days in the week before the swim it rained solidly and not only brought the level up to a perfect height it also washed a lot of the weed through, so on the day the water was very clear.
The numbers were up again, this time 290 swimmers, so we moved the registration to the picnic field at Flatford Mill and split the swimmers into two waves: Seriously Need More Cake (known as Serious) and Relaxed 'cause We Know Where The Cake is Hidden (known as Relaxed).
2018With coverage in The Guardian newspaper at Christmas and 'word of mouth' continuing there were 540 swimmers in 2018. It was such an increase that entry was closed three months before the event. Continued support by the National Trust meant that we were able to finish the swim right next to the historic dry-dock at Flatford Mill, that featured in John Constable's painting Boat Building at Flatford. (https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/Ö/featurÖ/flatford-dry-dock)and picnic in the field next to the Mill Pond from The Haywain.   
Boat building
2019The weather did it's best for us. After a day of high winds and weather warnings, the day of the Swim dawned calm and sunny and stayed pretty good throughout the morning. I guess the weather gods were on our side. Our busiest year yet. The entry was closed at 750 swimmers with 6 waves spread out through the morning. There were nearly 150 people in the Pooh sticks wave.
There were a lot more picnickers than before as well and we spread out all across the field that the National Trust loaned us for the day.
Dedham Mill Pond 
whereThe swim is along the idyllic Dedham Vale in the very heart of Constable Country, with a mass picnic by the river at Flatford Mill, scene of his famous 'Haywain' landscape painting.
Registration is in the picnic field at Flatford Mill.
The start of the swim is from the mill pond at Dedham Mill.
We suggest that you park at the end of the course at Flatford Mill (The National Trust have provided us with a car park, satnav CO76UL), drop off your picnic supplies at the marquee in the picnic field, register and stroll the 1.5 miles to the start along the river bank. This should take around 40 minutes
raise moneyThis year we are proud to be raising much needed funds for the National Trust, the River Stour Trust and Slow Swimming.

The National Trust looks after over 300 historic British buildings and is funded by public donations. Flatford Mill, Willy Lotts Cottage are owned by the National Trust.
The River Stour Trust is a registered charity led by volunteers dedicated to the restoration and the conservation of the River Stour Navigation for the benefit and enjoyment of the public.
Slow Swimming campaigns to encourage people to become more active by swimming in the outdoors and appreciating the river environments that they are in.
To Enter The Swim
*Coronavirus - No risk entry* If this event has to be postponed you will be offered the choice of either a complete refund, including admin fee, or a deferment to any of next year's Slow Swims.
Click on the blue button and go through to Entry Central. Don't forget to order your event T Shirt at the same time!
If you need to hire a wetsuit click through to www.trinswimwell.co.uk who will have it ready for you to collect at registration.
Buy the T ShirtOrder your Dedham Swim T Shirt now and have it ready for you at the picnic after the swim. All T Shirts ordered before the 21st July will have the full list of swimmers names who have pre-paid for their t shirts before that date, on the back. A unique souvenir and profits go towards our good causes. Cost £15.00.
2020 Mill 2 Mill T shirt  Small to fit 34" to 36" chest  Buy a T Shirt
Medium to fit 38" to 40" chest Buy a T Shirt
Large to fit 42" to 44" chest Buy a T Shirt
XLarge to fit 46" to 48" chest Buy a T Shirt
XXLarge to fit 50" to 52" chest Buy a T Shirt
XXXLarge to fit 54" to 56" chest Buy a T Shirt
XXXXLarge to fit 58" to 60" chest Buy a T Shirt
Wetsuit Hire.
You can contact www.trinswimwell.co.uk 07919 205498 and for £25 hire a wetsuit for the event. They will have it ready for your collection at registration.
Fact Sheet

Although we try to make this event as professional as possible it is run by swimmers for swimmers. Apart from a few experts (lifeguards, first aid etc) everyone is volunteering their time to help out. If you can spare half an hour before the swim to help set up the equipment at Flatford Mill please just turn up from 7.45am and ask Cathie for a job.


If you would like to be a helper next year, there are lots of jobs that need doing Ė from registration to litter picking, let me know and Iíll contact you nearer the time with details.


You will also see some charities and companies that have stands in the picnic field. They would have to be promoting a charity, product or service that isn't at odds with the Slow Swimming ethos. If you are interested in having a stand next year send me an email to slowswimming@aol.com.


If you are planning on camping over the weekend and using the trip to explore other attractions in Constable Country here are some suggestions of where to stay:

Rushbanks Farm https://www.rushbanksfarm.co.uk/

Bloomfields Farm, Ardleigh https://www.ukcampsite.co.uk/sites/details.asp?revid=17740


For more immediate information and the chance to talk to other swimmers to arrange lifts, car sharing etc. join the Mill2Mill Facebook group here:




Please try to car share to the registration point at Flatford Mill if possible. If you want to arrange to car share click through to the event Facebook page here https://www.facebook.com/groups/326802410994418/


Travelling from London by train.
Flatford is a bit rural to get to on a Sunday, but it is possible. The most logical way would be to catch a train from Liverpool Street to Manningtree. The 8:27 will get you there at 9:40


Then there is a walk of just over 2 miles along the river to Flatford (taxis might be a bit sparse at that time) which should get you to the registration at about 10:10am


Manningtree Station is taking part in the Bike and Go initiative. You can hire a bike from the station for the day for a reasonable charge. Click on this link to register first and find out availability.




There is no need to park at Dedham. There is very little public parking there and parking on yellow lines or blocking entrances or narrow roads will lead to a ticket.

We have arranged with The National Trust to have our very own car park for the event at Flatford Mill.

If you are using a SatNav based on Goole Maps you can click here to find the car park https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@51.9630585,1.0210582,17.09z  Itís marked as ĎMill 2 Mill Swim car park. The post code CO7 6UL will get you very close as well.


There are lots of other things to do at Flatford after the swim that can be found here https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/flatford


The lane leading to Flatford Mill is one-way and very narrow, so may jam up with the numbers attending. So itís best to allow extra time for parking.

Once parked carry your picnic stuff and after-swim changing stuff down to the hill and you will see the small white registration marquee in the field at the bottom of the hill.


Registration starts at 8.30am on tables relating to your surname. Please make sure you register at this point. Do not go straight to the start as we will not know you are in the river (Health and Safety).


Registration is going to be very busy so you might like to register by downloading the fast track form and filling in your name before you arrive. There will be a box on the registration desk that you can just pop your form in Ė thatís it job done. If you are in a queue there will be more fast track forms and pens on the desk to use if you havenít brought your form.


Once you have registered you will be given a coloured souvenir wrist band to wear during the event. Please put this on and have it on during the swim. Itís then yourís to keep as a souvenir.


Leave your picnic supplies and the majority of your kit here in the corral by the registration gazebo. Just take with you what you will need to walk to the start.


Walking to the start

The event is a one way swim, so you drop off most of your kit at the picnic area, then only take the absolute minimum with you to walk 2.3km to the start at Dedham. I would suggest this would be a pair of trainers and a T Shirt in a small shoe bag or small carrier bag.


We have arranged for Portaloos for the swimmers and spectators to be available in the car park of the Boathouse Restaurant www.dedhamboathouse.com 100m from the start on the other side of the road bridge at Dedham. They also do fabulous food, proper coffee and local ice cream. Your spectators might like to watch the start from their garden by the river. 


If you have supporters, ask them to bring your walking kit back to Flatford Mill, if not we have a van that can bring a limited amount back. There will be wheelie bins at the start at Dedham Mill to put your walking kit in to be brought to Flatford Mill, make sure your bag has your name on it. The kit van will arrive at Flatford Mill at around 12.15pm after the Pooh Sticks wave has set off.


There will be a short reminder briefing immediately before each wave and then you are free to warm up in the water before the standing start. The access to the river is gently sloping and very easy and the Mill Pond at this point is between waist and shoulder deep.


Wave 1: Seriously Need More Cake (Known as Serious), start at 10.30am.

Wave 2: Relaxed 'cause we know where the cake is hidden (Known as Relaxed).
Wave 3: Enjoying the Journey (Known as Enjoying it).

Wave 4: Pooh Sticks.

Wave 5: Pooh Sticks A-Bridged. Same as the Pooh Sticks we all love but from Fen Bridge to Flatford Mill, approximately half the distance (1.2km), but still finishing at Flatford Mill


If you are late for your wave Ė donít panic, join in the next one.


The swim has a continuous public footpath and easy walk outs. All the way to the halfway point of the foot bridge the footpath is on the left and after that on the right hand side.


The swim is 2.3km in length (approx. 1.5 miles) and starts in the Dedham Mill Pond, which is between waist and shoulder deep. As you swim downstream and under the road bridge it gets deeper, but immediately becomes very shallow as you pass the Dedham Boathouse restaurant. Youíll have to stand up and walk this bit for 50m or so.


The next 1km varies in depth, with deep sections on the inside of curves and shallow on the outside.


Once you reach the half way mark at Fen Bridge footbridge the river becomes more consistently deep, but still with shoulder depth edges and numerous walkouts along the way. Donít miss the chance to stop and chat or take pictures of the amazing scenery as you pass through. Up to Fen Bridge the public footpath is on the left of the river and afterwards itís on the right.


If you do get out, please make your way by the footpath to the finish and check out or weíll keep looking for where you have washed up to.


The finishing point is another kilometre on, on the left hand side of the river just after the footbridge at Flatford. You will have walked over both of these footbridges on your journey from the registration to the start. When you reach the end there will be helpers to guide you out of the river.


Whilst swimming keep an eye on your fellow swimmers, this is a casual, social event Ė not a race. If anyone looks in trouble, please be the first person to offer help. Better to offer where itís not required than leave someone in trouble.


Please donít forget at this point to go back to the registration marquee in the picnic field and sign out of the river. There will be hand washing facilities at the picnic field, but no showers.



In all the excitement of the swim donít forget to bring your picnic. Donít take it with you along the walk to Dedham, but leave it in the corral by the registration desk at the picnic field at Flatford Mill, along with your change of clothing and towels, Dry-Robes etc.



Dogs are welcome at the Mill 2 Mill Slow Swim and Picnic. But the walk from the picnic field to the start in Dedham and back is through fields that usually have cattle in so please make sure your dog is on a fairly short lead. You may also find that they are keen to jump into the river and join in Ė please donít allow them to do this as it scares the wildlife and the swimmers.


Cake sharing table

The Mill 2 Mill Swim and Picnic is a very social affair and the swopping and sharing of cake and goodies is very much encouraged. As the event has got larger each year we have decided to help this along by providing a cake (and goodies) sharing table.

If you would like to bake a bit extra and share it around, or sample the expertise of your fellow swimmers and picnickers please make use of the sharing table at the small marquee.

Cathie and I will get it started with some off the shelf cake but feel free to be enthusiastic with your donations and donít be shy in digging in to the goodies there.


Remember that the event is to promote the conservation of the river and the surrounding Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, so if possible bring your picnic in re-usable containers and re-usable drinks bottles. But if you do have any rubbish, please take it home with you for recycling, or put it in the bins provided.

If you see that someone else has left rubbish please clear that as well. We have promised the National Trust who owns the land we are using, that we will leave no sign of the picnic and if possible leave the area cleaner than we found it.


Some FAQs:

One of the many attractions of swimming outdoors is that you are totally immersed in nature, but as the Slow Swims are often the first opportunity that many people have had to give it a try you might be surprised by a few things.


There are weeds in the river, you wonít get tangled in them and they wonít Ďdrag you downí whatever your non-swimming friends say. If the idea of something touching you whilst you swim is too freaky then try a wettie or most commonly leggings and a t-shirt or surfers rashie.


The river bottom can be stony, muddy, have twigs or sharp flints. A few people will swim with bare feet, and if you do then be careful as cuts can become infected in river water, but most people will use swim socks, wetsuit boots or more commonly new thin swimming shoes like these https://www.amazon.co.uk/IceUnicorn-Drainage-Walking-Driving-Boating/dp/B071YNF8VJ/

Great for walking to and from the swim as well (we have no connection to any swim shoe company)


Donít drink the water. Although the River Stour, on a bacteriological basis, is in most cases cleaner than a swimming pool, itís not wise to drink any more of the water than is necessary. There are particulates from mud and plant-life that can sometimes upset your stomach for a day or two; most people are fine but no point taking unnecessary risks. Needless to say Ė wash your hands and face before picnicking.


Supporting the charities

The swim and picnic are to raise funds for the River Stour Trust whoís volunteers do great work looking after the river and for Slow Swimming to promote the advantages of outdoor swimming and campaign for better access to natural swimming places. If you feel the urge there will be collection buckets for them.

What to wear

No you don't have to wear a wettie. We will publish the water temperature 24 hours before the swim on the swim Facebook page and you can make your own choice:




Tow floats are allowed but arenít compulsory. They are great to use when you are outdoor swimming in small groups as they allow other river users to see you and can be great in an emergency for you or other swimmers.


Under 16s are welcome but must be accompanied by a responsible adult. It is your responsibility to ensure their safety and their ability to complete the event.

Spectators are very welcome, they can walk along the river on public footpaths all the way from Dedham Mill to Flatford, with two styles and two footbridges to cross over.


Weilís disease

Although Weilís disease is very rare in the UK, with only one or cases per year itís worth being aware. Cover any open wound with a waterproof plaster. Wash your hands and face after swimming and before eating. If you get flu or jaundice-like symptoms three to fourteen days after swimming, ask your doctor for a Leptospirosis test. It is simply treated with antibiotics.


After Drop

Outdoor river and lake temperatures tend to be lower than swimming pools, which for many is an attraction, but Slow Swimmers generate less heat than others so be wary of getting cold whilst swimming or whatís called Ďafter-dropí. As you get out and stop creating heat you can cool down very quickly and start shaking. This isnít serious but can worry the uninitiated. Itís not hypothermia and is best helped by layers of clothing, hot drinks and repairing to a warm environment. If you feel this coming on speak to one of the Lifeguards or any of the Land Crew and weíll sort you out.


For more information about other Slow Swimming events join the Slow Swimming Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/SlowSwimming/ or the Slow Swimming website www.SlowSwimming.org