Polstead is a picturesque rural village a mile across the Box Valley from Stoke by Nayland. It consists of five hamlets, linked by 27 miles of public footpaths, in one of the largest parishes in Suffolk. The southern part of the village is in the Dedham Vale Conservation Area, within the Stoke Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. According to a recent survey, over 40% of people visiting the AONB come to Polstead, many for the rural and wooded walks.
A steep hill climbs from the ponds, which give their name to the village, up to the village green, where the surrounding buildings include The Cock Inn, Cock Farm and the village hall. The grandest house on the hill is now called Corders after the family of William Corder, of Red Barn Murder infamy, whose family lived there in the 19th century.
On the other side of the ponds, Polstead St Mary Church shares a steep drive with Polstead Hall. The Church building is considered one of the most interesting in Suffolk, dating back to about 1150 AD (Grade 1 listed and receiving one star from Simon Jenkins 1000 Best Churches in England), with a number of unique medieval features. It has a pervading atmosphere of peace and a superb view across to Stoke by Nayland and down the Box Valley.