CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to EADT Suffolk today CLICK HERE

Suffolk’s prettiest homes: A Christmassy farmhouse near Knodishall

PUBLISHED: 16:24 23 November 2018

Haines Christmas house

Haines Christmas house

Archant

Mark and Jan Haines can’t wait for Christmas to arrive at their home, Billeaford Hall, a restored farmhouse near Knodishall | Words & Photos: Tony Hall

On a wintery day just before Christmas, I went to visit to visit Jan Packard and Mark Haines at their beautiful Suffolk farmhouse, Billeaford Hall between Knodishall and Aldeburgh. Temperatures were falling rapidly and snow seemed imminent. Once inside, however, there was a warm welcome, rooms decorated for Christmas, glowing log burners and the Aga making everything warm and cosy.

“The lead up to Christmas starts with putting up lots of greenery. I love foliage,” says Jan. “Then the preparatory cooking, mince pies, cranberry jam, marmalade and the Christmas cake.” Jan is a qualified cook and spent many years working on luxury yachts chartered around the Caribbean.

Haines Christmas houseHaines Christmas house

She is highly organised on the catering front, which is an added bonus as throughout the year as she and Mark operate Billeaford Hall as an upmarket B&B.

“With those jobs done, it’s off to Redhouse Barn, near Friston, to choose the tree – possibly to get a few more decorations to add to the collection over the years – and then home to dress them, and put on the lights.

Haines Christmas houseHaines Christmas house

“I so love the build up to Christmas. The first carol concert, normally at Knodishall church, really is a moment that heralds joy and the start of this festive season. I’ve always enjoyed carols and Mark and I try to fit in two or three concerts, plus a visit to the theatre for a pantomime or the Christmas Spectacular by the Co-op Juniors at Snape Maltings.”

The farmhouse was built in the 16th/17th centuries with later additions and takes its name – probably Saxon – from the small hamlet in which it lies. It belonged to the Blackheath Estate and, when the last tenanted farmer left, was privately bought from the estate, together with the barn, in the 1980s.

Haines Christmas houseHaines Christmas house

The soil was not good for crops, so the farmer moved to the other end of the village and started a market garden on better soil. Horses worked the land until the 1960s when 10 of then were replaced by a tractor.

Keen sailors, Jan and Mark chose Billeaford Hall because of its relative proximity to the county’s coast and waterways. Sailing still features large in their lives, of course, and Mark is doing an RYA Skipper’s course so they can trade up from a dingy to a Moody 27’. They also liked the barns which are a good base for families seeking holiday accommodation.

Haines Christmas houseHaines Christmas house

“I was immediately taken with the conservatory,” recalls Mark, “light and airy with nice views over the garden and a great place to watch the big skies. That, and the opportunity the barns afforded, sold the property to us immediately.” They began work on the barn immediately, which enabled them to start generating income early on.

“When it came to this house, it was a challenge, as we had come from different homes. Mine was a Georgian house, but with contemporary furniture, and Jan’s a heavily beamed barn.” They consider themselves fortunate to have good local shops. “Several pieces of furniture and artefacts I have found at Snape Maltings, always different and inspirational,” says Jan.

Haines Christmas houseHaines Christmas house

Soon after they had revamped the house they were visited by a family of Americans who had rented the property many years before. “They had been on the American airbase,” explains Mark, “and recalled that the farmhouse was the coldest place they had ever been in – ice and snow on the windows that winter and just one fire in an upstairs bedroom. I was pleased to show them that we had put in wood burners and how warm the house was.” It’s certainly cosy and warm for the festive season.

“This house so lends itself to Christmas – lots of festive lights, wood burners lit and the smells of Jan’s wonderful cooking,” says Mark. “There’s so much to do – great walks and games, and even tennis even, snow permitting. We sometimes gather the Friday before, with friends and family, for what we call the company dinner, at the White Lion in Aldeburgh.

Haines Christmas houseHaines Christmas house

“On Christmas Eve, the family arrive and Jan does a supper of beef bourguignon, with dauphinoise potatoes. On the main day, it’s bacon sandwiches for everyone for breakfast, a dip in the hot tub, then a walk, maybe a drink at The Dolphin, Thorpeness, followed by the traditional turkey lunch at home, with all meat from Nichols in Leiston.

Normally it’s board games in the evening, such as Monopoly. We also have a big jigsaw puzzle, which people can add pieces to – this year The Haywain.

Haines Christmas houseHaines Christmas house

“On Boxing Day and New Year’s Day, we often go for a swim at Dunwich, or walk to our local beach between Aldebugh and Thorpeness, followed by a good slug of sloe gin – home made from our own fruits. Or it’s a clay pigeon shoot in our gravel pit. No gin of course! If the family are staying it’s a lazy day, with maybe ham and mashed potato later on.”

Once the guests have gone, the couple go back to walking the Sailors Path between Snape and Aldeburgh, or across to Orford Ness for the wildness and bird watching. “Here at home we watch for our resident barn owl. In fact a most magical thing is watching the skies during the day and at night, preferably with a big moon.

Haines Christmas houseHaines Christmas house

“It’s such a quiet spot, very rural and so enjoyed by our guests. Suffolk is special.”

B&B at Billeaford Hall billeafordhall.com

Holiday lettings of East and West Barns suffolk-secrets.co.uk

Favourite things

Room: The conservatory – south facing, with views of beautiful skies.

Item: The Aga, and the dining table made by Mark’s dad

interiors shops: Snape Maltings Home & Garden, Elmwood Nurseries, Knodishall

Part of the county: Orford Ness and the coast

Day out: On a boat on the rivers

Waste of time: Watching the resident barn owl

Walk: Sailors’ Path

Pub: Parrot & Punchbowl at Aldringham, owned and run by The Dolphin Inn, Thorpeness.

Cafe or restaurant: The Lighthouse Aldeburgh.

More from Christmas

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

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
Wednesday, November 28, 2018

What makes the perfect Christmas? For most of us it’s good food, good drink and good company, wherever we call home. And in Suffolk we’re lucky to have some great people in the food and drink industry who ensure we always have a great time | Words: Jayne Lindill

Read more
Wednesday, November 28, 2018

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
Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Suffolk in winter time is a magical place to be. There are Christmas markets, chilly walks, and days by the blustery seaside to be had. These 17 nostalgic pictures will definitely bring out that unique festive feeling.

Read more
Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Set in the beautiful Suffolk Countryside, Red House Christmas Barn sits perfectly between the coastal town of Aldeburgh and the market town of Saxmundham

Read more
Friday, November 23, 2018

Mark and Jan Haines can’t wait for Christmas to arrive at their home, Billeaford Hall, a restored farmhouse near Knodishall | Words & Photos: Tony Hall

Read more
Tuesday, November 20, 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, 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
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

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

Most Read

Latest from the EADT Suffolk Magazine