Icons by Marchela Dimitrova


  is Bulgarian for a small path. Their presence in the rural landcape is often a defining aspect of the Bulgarian country side, in which common land and smallholdings still survive in many areas.

Marchela first came to White House Farm as Artist in Residence in February 2009 with her husband, Fr Nedyalko Dimitrov. The path that led to that point involved a many much earlier meetings with a variety of people : an old man called Lubov in the Balkan foothills in 1999; a visit from Alan Hoggets, the chaplain of Milton Keynes prison to White House Farm in 2004; the subsequent gift from Alan of a beautiful icon of St Audrey or St Aethelrhyth, made from pantry boards salvaged from the farm house; and a chance meeting with Nedyalko in Brighton in the New Year of 2009, when he was travelling with an icon of St Andrew and St John painted by Marchela.

In coming to Suffolk, Nedyalko and Marchela brought with them the art of Byzantine iconography, in which egg tempera, garlic gum, rosemary water, gesso, cotton, gold leaf and natural varnishes are all key ingredients – along with prayer.

Over the past seven years Marchela and Nedyalko have sent consignments of new work to the farm for each Spring Festival. These have explored a variety of themes including : early Suffolk saints; Angels at Easter; early Irish and Anglo-Saxon saints; Irish saints; female saints of England; the Beatitudes; Archangels; St Bede and St Cuthbert.

These links may seem tenuous, but the threads and connections that bring them together – the small footpaths - are remarkably strong. The early Suffolk church was established by the conversion of Anglo Saxon leaders in the 6th and 7th centuries – St Audrey or St Aethelryth being one. Their mentors were early saints such as St Botolph of Iken and St Felix of Dunwich. They in turn were influenced by the likes of St Fursey, St Foillan and St Ulltan – all from Ireland and the ministries of St Columcille and St Brendan. It was here in Suffolk – and in other parts of early Europe – that the contrasting faiths of the Irish and Roman churches collided.

In a way, the faith of the early Irish saints feels more portable, more personal and more powerful than that of the modern Churches. In the Middle Ages Suffolk earned the moniker “Silly Suffolk” from the Anglo-Saxon “seilig” or “saintly’ – for the number of churches and early saints in the county. Looking around the landscape today, this early faith and the heritage of the Anglo-Saxon period survives in the large number of old flint-built village churches and divisions of local government : the division of the modern county into East, Mid and West Suffolk jurisdictions seems to have its roots in the Anglo Saxon period.

For 2016, Marchela painted icons of St Christopher. This was in response to the upheaval of people in the Middle East and the large number of people trying to reach Europe for refuge, sanctuary or simply a better life. Marchela is having a sabbatical for 2017, but we look forward to presenting new works in 2018.

For more information : enquiries@aldevalleyspringfestival.co.uk 

Marchela’s work is on show in a quiet mezzanine area in the old dairy.

  • The Summer Exhibition :

    The Spirit of '48  +  Here and Now.
    Sat 9th June Sun 1st July Details>


  • Local Places to Stay :

    Good places to stay within 1 mile of the Festival and farm : Crown Cottages, Great Glemham; Stable Cottage, The Grove; Alde Garden, Sweffling Details>


  • Festival Exhibition opening times :

    Festival open every weekday except non-Bank Holiday Mondays. If you are coming in the middle of the day there are good local pubs in Great Glemham and Rendham.


  • Free Entry & Parking :

    Free parking and free entry to Festival Exhibition and Open Studios [@ weekends] – come by foot, bike or car share !

  • Harry Becker Exhibition :

    Archive Exhibition about Harry Becker in the Farmyard Classroom with works for sale in the barns.

  • The Festival Exhibition theme for 2018 : Claudius ~ Suffolk’s Roman Emperor!

    Celebration of portraiture, life drawing and the figure in the landscape

  • New works:

    New works by over 20 artists and makers in the Festival Exhibition.

  • Festival Talks:

    Festival Talks with Maggi Hambling, Simon Loftus and Charlotte Howarth.

  • Farm Suppers with Peter Harrison:

    Farm Suppers with Peter Harrison each Thursday evening in the farmhouse Dining Rooms from Thurs 26th April – 17th May. Book early to reserve places.


  •  Eat on the Wild Side :

    Cakes, pastries and pies made with foods from the farm’s market gardens, hedgerows, pastures and woodland. Served and on sale at weekends in Hedge Quarters’ Tea Rooms.


  •  NEW for 2018 :

    More pop up exhibition spaces in the barns for The Spring Festival Exhibition.

  •  NEW for 2018 :

    New Workshop Residency spaces – open at weekends from 21st April – 20th May.

  •  Spring Festival launches 21st April:

    The 2018 Alde Valley Spring Festival launches on Saturday 21st April and runs until Sunday 20th May – come and visit us !


  •  NEW for 2018:

    Open Studios showcasing some of the best makers in Suffolk and UK : leather work, letter carving, chair-making, knife-forging, jewellery, tile-making


Works for Sale

We have some wonderful works by artists that exhibit at the festival currently for sale. Details >
The Festival Shop

Stocking a range of unusual cards, books, walking sticks and other handmade items made on the farm & by local artisans. Details >
The Suffolk Chair Collection

The Collection of original early – mid nineteenth century Ball Backs has been set up as a design reference collection. Details >

Icon Painting in the Alde Valley

For more information....
Details >
Food Adventures

We have listed some of the Alde Valleys outstanding food businesses.
Places to Stay

The Alde Valley and East Suffolk are full of good homestays, holiday cottages, B&Bs and hotels.
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