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 has been painting icons of St Christopher. This has been 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’s work is on show in a quiet mezzanine area in the old dairy.

  • Thank you to our sponsors

    Aspall Cyder and Suffolk Coast for supporting this year’s Alde Valley Spring Festival !

  • A talk by Maggi Hambling :

    6pm for 6.30pm start. Saturday 7th May in the barns at the farm. Email the Festival for ticket sales.

  • Spring Festival 2016

    This year’s Spring Festival launches on 23rd April for 4 weeks with a rich programme of Farm Suppers, Festival Talks, Open Studios and Meet the Artists sessions....

  • New for 2016 :

    A sound installation of a nightingale singing by Emma Green; “The Carrier” by Laurence Edwards; “Rite of Spring” by Maggi Hambling and over 200 curated works on show in the barns....

  • New for 2015/16:

    A poetry residency link between the Spring Festival and Cill Rialaig in Kerry, Eire.

  • The Big Spring Picnic takes place on Saturday 14th May.

    BYO picnic sourced from local shops in Framlingham, Saxmundham, Leiston, Snape, Aldeburgh & Orford ! Booking essential – limited places....

  • Pop Up “Hedgerow Tea Rooms”

    Open at Weekends serving cakes and pastries supplied especially for the Festival by chef Peter Harrison.


  • Try out local pubs :

    The Crown Inn, Great Glemham; White Horse, Sweffling; White Horse, Rendham; The Crown and Golden Key at Snape; The Ship Inn, Blaxhall are all within 4 miles.


  • Come and visit the farm on foot or by bike:

    Free parking for cars – share journeys if you can. Children and families welcome – no dogs please.


  • New for 2016 :

    “Meet the Artists” informal guided talks on Sunday afternoons during the Festival from 3-4.30pm.

  • New for 2016 :

    ‘Writing at Great Glemham” – a series of Writing Residencies linked to Farm Suppers and Festival Talks.

  • Don’t forget local market days :

    Mondays at Campsea Ashe auction rooms [with tea room]; Tuesdays at Framlingham; Wednesdays in Saxmundham – and Snape Farmers Market on the first Saturday of the month.


Works for Sale

We have some wonderful works by artists that exhibit at the festival currently for sale. Details >
Artisan Products

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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