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. We look forward to presenting new works that return to the world of early Irish saints in 2019.

For more information : enquiries@aldevalleyspringfestival.co.uk 

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


  • Bronzes of livestock and animals
    by Juliet Simpson for sale.

  • Paintings and drawings by Tessa Newcomb, Emma Green and Jason Gathorne-Hardy.

  • Families and children are welcome to the farm - no dogs please !

  • Farm Nature walks open daily during ! Cornucopia !

  • Hedge Quarters :

    Pop up Tea Rooms open daily 10am - 6pm 15th Sept - 4th Oct. Details >


  • 'Hefted' :

    An autumn exhibition of drawings, paintings and sculpture

  • Autumn Writing Residencies : 

    Sean Hewitt, Melissa Harrison, Tim Richardson, Louise Gray.

  • New works on show by Maggi Hambling and Jason Gathorne-Hardy.

  • The Suffolk Chair Collection :

    An exhibition of over 50 antique and contemporary Suffolk Chairs. Details >


  • Pesta Nukenen :

    An exhibition of basketry from our sister festival in Borneo

  • Farm Suppers on Thursday evenings :

    30th Sept, 27th Sept & 4th October. Details >


  • Meet the Makers!

    Open studios at weekends 10am - 6pm - Details >

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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