WHEN Managing a Masterpiece began, it had one aim – to promote and enhance the stunning Stour Valley in memory of John Constable.

Since 2010, it has helped to fund and carry out more than 70 projects, including bringing a barge, named after the master painter, back into use along the River Stour for tourist trips Then there were archaeological digs, not to mention a groundbreaking 360 degree study of the iconic landscape – taken from 36 church towers in the Dedham Vale and Stour Valley.

A Hopper Bus was also set up to ferry visitors from Manningtree railway station to the Essex and Suffolk border and to tourist hotspots such as Dedham, Flatford and East Bergholt.

Its aim was to encourage visits by those without cars, and there is no doubt all volunteers’ hardwork has helped built on the legacy of the famous artist, whose work immortalised this part of England.

Funding for the project finishes at the end of the month, but their achievements will live on.

That’s the belief of James Halsall, chairman of the Managing a Masterpiece Partnership Board. he said: “The mantra was always: Projects delivered by the community, overseen by professional guidance. In this, I can say we have achieved our goal.

“Much would simply not have been possible without the dedicated teams of volunteers, who turned their hands to archaeology, increasing access to the countryside, unearthing historical information, improving wildlife habitat and conserving the heritage features that make the Stour Valley such a special place.

“Managing a Masterpiece will provide an ongoing legacy for residents and visitors alike.

“In my role as chairman of the partnership board, I would like to showmy appreciation of my fellow board members for their invaluable advice and support, express all our thanks to the team, which ran countless successful events, encouraged so many to participate and did so much to conserve and enhance the Stour Valley.”

The initiative was funded by £910,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, as well as with money from a number of authorities, such as Essex County and Colchester and Tendring councils.

A short film on each project completed can be viewed at managingamasterpiece.org