In July 1910 Munnings and his caravan left Ringland Hills and travelled through Norfolk via Swainsthorpe to Hoxne in Suffolk, in search of new painting grounds. There, in picturesque riverside meadows, Munnings alternated between painting bright-weather and grey-weather canvases depending on the conditions. 'On grey days my subject was by the shallow edge of the millstream, where farm-horses watered ... The grey-weather subject I prepared for was The Ford - grey water and dark reflections broken by lines of the current. Again what a subject! ... Standing on rising ground, looking down on the leading ponies coming out of the water, I spaced the design - cutting out the sky - using the distant country for the top portion of the picture. Ponies, water, reflections, filled the rest of the space'. He wrote of his frustration when the sun shone, 'A grey ceiling of cloud - calm, serene - all was well. Then that ceiling would begin to break - silvery fissures appeared, the sun shone! Who is to describe the misery of seeing such complete, relentless transformation of everything?' (op. cit., p. 239).
Munnings wrote that the present work was in fact 'painted at the back of the Mill at home' (op. cit., opposite p. 192). After Shrimp's departure at the end of the summer the artist had left Hoxne and moved on to stay with his mother in Mendham. There, behind the mill on the Waveney, Munnings continued work on his Ford pictures. 'Painting was resumed by another river, the Waveney. Praying for grey weather, and getting it in long spells, I stood, as in my last spot, on rising ground, behind the mill, looking down at a similar angle on ponies, grey water and reflections ... Each day my work went on to the ceaseless, busy hum of the mill, and the sound of the water as it eddied and swirled from underneath the dark, cavernous space where the large water-wheel turned, sending out a delicious pungent smell, the very essence of the river's life. The ponies, through long habit, would take their own places on the slope from the shallow water and stand there, often having to be wakened from pony slumbers, overcome by the continual drowsy sounds of mill and water. Those farther back in the stream were held by Gray the younger, wearing gum boots' (op. cit., p. 246).
Munnings painted three large versions of The Ford, one of which was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1911. The artist wrote of the other two large versions (each 54 x 64 in.), now in the collections of Wolverhampton Art Gallery and the Sir Alfred Munnings Art Museum in Dedham, 'I still possess those large five-foot studies. Looking at them now brings back the scene afresh. I hear myself shouting "Hi! Wake that dun horse; shove his head up!" or, to a boy with a pole, "Keep the water moving" (op. cit., p. 239).