CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to EADT Suffolk today CLICK HERE

Is there anywhere more cosy to spend Christmas than this Suffolk home?

PUBLISHED: 17:16 18 December 2017 | UPDATED: 10:20 11 January 2018

The heart of the house, the living room

The heart of the house, the living room


Amanda and Guy Marks spend their lives on the move, helping others explore the world. But there’s nowhere they’d rather be at this time of year. Words and images: Tony Hall

“As travelling has been an integral part of our lives for so long coming home for Christmas is top priority,” says Guy Marks. The home he’s talking about is a lovely farmhouse in Otley, a few miles from Ipswich.

He’s just returned, a few days before, from a trip to Botswana, checking on locations and contacts for future trips for the travel business he and wife Amanda run. Now they and their boys, Luke, 17, and Dan, 20, are immersed in getting ready for Christmas, fetching trees, hanging decorations, wrapping presents.

You might think Amanda, born and bred in Durham, is a long way from home. Her father, an entrepreneur in sports sponsorship, and her mother, a garden designer, were from Yorkshire. Amanda, studied French and German at Leeds University, before joining an overland travel company as a tour guide, working in Africa and the Middle East.

White Christmas at OtleyWhite Christmas at Otley

Her love of the Narnia books influenced her love of Africa, in particular Zambia, and it was on a trip to there that she met Guy, working as a team leader.

Guy hails from east Sussex and Kent. His grandfather took early retirement and became a farmer in Scotland, as a hobby. Guy went to Cirencester Agricultural College, but was also interested in photography and filming, which was to prove useful.

He met a friend in Suffolk and decided to take a year-long trip to South Africa before looking for a job. He then joined Dalgety as a trainee and moved to Bury St. Edmunds. “I became a grain trader, before becoming a grain broker at the Baltic Exchange in London. It wasn’t really for me, so I became an overland driver on trips to the Middle East, Asia and South America. When Amanda and I got engaged we went to a castle in Scotland at Balmanno, very romantic.”

At home . . .  Guy and Amanda MarksAt home . . . Guy and Amanda Marks

Guy and Amanda’s overland travel was, in her words, quirky and very interesting. When they started our own travel company, Tribes, in 1998, it was based on responsible tourism and luxury experiences, tailored to their clients, to appreciate the culture and people of the places they visited.

“Be it safaris, or Galapagos cruises, exploring the Taj in India or searching for tigers, everything is very special and well researched, “ she says. Tribe now operates from offices adjacent to the Otley farmhouse.

Guy’s love of photography and filming has been a great benefit. Over the years he has also become a travel writer and photographer, producing features for the Financial Times and National Geographic among others, plus books.

“We moved our home here in 2005. The rear part is Tudor, around 1580, with the gentrified front section added in 1870. It’s set in five acres, and what was the dairy is now converted into modern offices for our business and 10 staff.” The property was once part of the Helmingham Estate, and had been home to seven generations of the previous occupants’ family.

Preparing for Christmas in the kitchenPreparing for Christmas in the kitchen

“What I immediately loved about this farmhouse was its history and roots,” says Amanda. “The nice fireplaces, the witches’ marks, the 16th century wall painting, and the fact it had not been overly modernised.

It also has a lovely garden and grounds, and we re-did the pond. The attic room had been derelict for years, but we’ve renovated and it has become a great twin guest bedroom. In the kitchen we updated and brought the old fireplace back to life.

“The property lends itself to large gatherings and, of course, at Christmas we like a full house. We have both families including my dad and his wife, my sister and her husband. In the last week of November Guy always makes the Christmas pudding to a recipe handed down from his great-great-great grandmother.

The pretty guest bedroomThe pretty guest bedroom

“Over the years we’ve collected lots of bits and decorations and when the trees arrive that’s the beginning of preparations.

“When everyone has arrived, we have a light evening meal on Christmas Eve, something like fish pie. I buy a large ham and a bronze turkey from John Hutton, butchers in Earl Soham. My sister makes and brings the Christmas cake.

“On Christmas morning it’s scrambled eggs and smoked salmon for breakfast, with Champagne. We open all the presents afterwards. Guy and I do the Christmas lunch, and we normally sit down to eat after the Queen’s speech. In the evening we basically flop, listen to music and chat. I like listening to Miriam Makeba, a well known South African singer.”

The dining room awaits the family gatheringThe dining room awaits the family gathering

More of the family join them on Boxing Day for walks along the coast, maybe at Aldeburgh. In the evening Guy and his cousin take it in turns to entertain, playing guitar and singing. “We love being here, and despite all our travels, would not live anywhere else. Every day is special, the people are lovely and we both so enjoy watching the seasons come and go, surrounded by such unspoiled countryside.”

So where do Amanda and Guy like to go on holiday now?

“Well the choice is endless,” says Amanda. “We love Costa Rica, Nepal and Jordan, plus trips to Cornwall and France. I love Botswana, it’s a vast wild place, the most beautiful I have ever been too.”

For Guy, its the wildlife and bio diversity of the Amazon.

“Home is not just your home,” says Amanda, “but everything around you, both inside and out. I call it the glue of life, that’s what a home is.”

The inviting hallThe inviting hall

Check out our other Christmas content!

Why Suffolk is the best place to be for Christmas

19 times Suffolk was more beautiful than a Christmas card

Tips to make your Suffolk home fantastically festive


Follow Suffolk Mag on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

More from Christmas

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

There’s nowhere quite like Suffolk during the festive period with so many different places putting you right in the Christmas spirit. Here are 10 great places for you to shop, stay and visit

Read more
Friday, October 5, 2018

As we move towards Christmas Suffolk’s top pubs and restaurants are developing menus that perfectly complement the festive season. Here are 8 you should consider this winter

Read more
Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Come and take a stroll around some of Suffolk’s great Christmas markets and fayres over the festive period and see if you can find that perfect gift. Here are 13 amazing festive fairs in Suffolk

Read more
Tuesday, December 19, 2017

From Waveney and the Suffolk coast to Dedham Vale, these 19 pictures are guaranteed to get you exploring the beautiful towns and countryside of Suffolk this winter

Read more
Monday, December 18, 2017

Amanda and Guy Marks spend their lives on the move, helping others explore the world. But there’s nowhere they’d rather be at this time of year. Words and images: Tony Hall

Read more
Thursday, December 14, 2017

Enjoy Suffolk all year...

Read more
Wednesday, December 13, 2017

When it comes to adding some festive sparkle, for almost 50 years, generations of homeowners have headed to Snape Maltings’ Christmas emporium. Head buyer Heather Fortmann has the task of filling it each year with gorgeous things. She offers her ideas and inspiration for your home

Read more
Tuesday, November 28, 2017

More and more people are abandoning artifical and Ruth Goudy of Kiln Farm Nursery tells us why that can be a good thing for animal life, the environment and for your own sense of wellbeing

Read more
Monday, November 20, 2017

With a huge selection of Christmas trees, thousands of decorations hand picked from around Europe, Santa’s Grotto, festive-themed accommodation and stunning Christmas displays there is nowhere better to drop in to this December

Read more
Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Christmas is a wonderful time to spend with loved ones and there’s no better place to do that than Suffolk, with its outstanding natural beauty, charming villages and festive foodie delights

Read more

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Follow us on Twitter

Like us on Facebook

Local Business Directory

Job search in your local area

Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search