Go­ing with the flow

When Jan Packard and Mark Haines were look­ing for some­where to share their love of boats they couldn’t re­sist the un­spoilt charms of the Alde and Ore


A bright and beau­ti­ful barn trans­for­ma­tion at Kn­odishall

Amu­tual love of boats, rivers and life afloat brought Jan Packard and Mark Haines to set up a home in Suf­folk, two con­verted 18th cen­tury barns, hid­den down a ru­ral farm track be­tween Kn­odishall and Aldeburgh, in the grounds of Bil­leaford Hall.

“The lo­ca­tion is close to ex­cel­lent rivers, the Alde/Ore and the Deben for sail­ing,” says Jan. Brought up on the Isle of Man in a sail­ing fam­ily, Jan stud­ied sec­re­tar­ial French when she fin­ished school, be­fore join­ing her fam­ily, by that time sail­ing in the Caribbean. “I took a cook’s job on a sail­ing yacht, skip­pered by my late hus­band, Chris. I quickly re­alised the high stan­dard of cook­ing re­quired and went to Paris to learn cor­don bleu cook­ery at La Varenne. I fell in love with the Caribbean is­lands and their colours, espe­cially An­tigua, St Barts and Mar­tinique where my French came in most use­ful.” Years later, the cou­ple re­turned to Eng­land and were both em­ployed by Oys­ter Ma­rine, on the River Or­well, be­fore hav­ing their chil­dren, Ben and Ge­orgina. “My love of boats,” ex­plains Mark, “came from liv­ing on the Thames at Mar­low where, af­ter a year in Aus­tralia, I and my late wife, Ali­son, re­turned and had our chil­dren, Luke and Do­minic.” Af­ter the pre­ma­ture deaths of their re­spec­tive part­ners 12 years ago, a mu­tual friend in­tro­duced Jan and Chris to each other. The quest for a home to­gether brought them to Suf­folk. Mark spent his later ca­reer in Lon­don as a project man­ager with in­sti­tu­tions such as Lloyds, AXA and IBM, but orig­i­nally started out as a drafts­man for a light­ing de­sign com­pany, while study­ing elec­tri­cal en­gi­neer­ing. He then opened his own wine bar, be­fore work­ing for char­tered sur­vey­ors as a res­i­den­tial agent.

“To be honest, when Jan in­tro­duced me to the lo­cal rivers, I was a bit non­plussed,” he says. “But I now fully un­der­stand and ap­pre­ci­ate their sheer beauty, and I’m ul­tra en­thu­si­as­tic. At present we have a rib (rigid­in­flat­able boat) that we tow, but the de­ci­sion is com­ing up as to a sail­ing boat or a fish­ing boat.” Their two-year prop­erty search be­gan in 2013. They wanted an at­trac­tive pe­riod home, with sep­a­rate hol­i­day ac­com­mo­da­tion to earn a crust, in a ru­ral lo­ca­tion close to the sail­ing rivers.

“We moved in April 2013,” ex­plains Jan. “I turned to Si­mon and An­gela James, who spe­cialise in in­te­rior de­sign for hol­i­day homes. With the East Barn, my only re­quest was to in­tro­duce the Caribbean colours of the is­lands I so love.” The aim was to have the barns ready in July, and Jan says the James’ knowl­edge and speed of ex­e­cu­tion was fan­tas­tic.

“I love the sharp greens they have used down­stairs, the chairs, the so­fas, fol­lowed through­out

with vi­brant splashes of other colours. It’s all worked so well. We’re for­tu­nate to have a ten­nis court here that vis­i­tors can use, plus, as Mark is a keen cy­clist, we also pro­vide cy­cles to en­joy the lo­cal coun­try­side. This is the best part of Suf­folk, with walks from here straight to North War­ren and Aldeburgh beach. The sur­round­ing coun­try­side re­mains un­spoilt as it is owned by the Black­heath Es­tate, the house be­ing a su­per ex­am­ple of Ge­or­gian ar­chi­tec­ture.”

Both barns are quite dif­fer­ent. The East Barn – fea­tured here – ap­peals to a younger gen­er­a­tion, says Jan, while West Barn, which is slightly more tra­di­tional, ap­peals to more ma­ture guests. Both can be rented to­gether, so some­times whole fam­i­lies stay, gath­er­ing around the East Barn’s

“I love the sharp greens they have used down­stairs, fol­lowed through­out with vi­brant splashes of other colours. ”

din­ing ta­ble, which can be made to ac­com­mo­date 12 peo­ple.

In fact, Jan and Mark love the open­ness of the main liv­ing/ din­ing space in the East Barn, with its doors onto the en­closed ter­race. “It’s all so ver­sa­tile and the favourite item has to be the wood-burner. While I left the fur­nish­ings here to An­gela and Si­mon, next door I sourced sev­eral items from Snape Malt­ings Home, a favourite shop. An­other great place is Karen Lear’s flower shop in Leis­ton. We al­ways buy our flow­ers there to dec­o­rate both the barns and the house.”

With both the house and the barns up and run­ning, Jan says she and Mark get more time for their favourite pas­times. “Be­sides the sail­ing, I try and run ev­ery day to get in train­ing for the Royal Parks half marathon, while Mark en­joys a 20-mile round cy­cle ride to South­wold, or play­ing golf at Uf­ford. We both like the walk di­rectly from here to Aldeburgh beach, about three miles, pos­si­bly a di­ver­sion to the Dol­phin pub at Thor­pe­ness, or the White Hart at Aldeburgh, with fish and chips on the beach after­wards.”

“An­other thing that at­tracted us to this lo­ca­tion,” says Mark, “was that, for Suf­folk, we are on high ground, 15 me­tres above sea level. It may not seem much, but it af­fords us fan­tas­tic sun­rises and sun­sets. Ev­ery one is quite magical, with those fa­mous Suf­folk skies. As we have no pass­ing traf­fic, it’s very quiet and good for guests’ kids, plus the walks and cy­cle rides with no roads. Our favourite mo­ments are watch­ing the lambs in spring in the farmer’s field op­po­site, truly de­light­ful.”

ABOVE LEFT: Jan Packard and Mark Haines LEFT: The stylish and spa­cious kitchen/din­ing room RIGHT AND FAR RIGHT: The East Barn’s mod­ern styling ap­peals to younger fam­i­lies

ABOVE RIGHT: The fresh, Car­ribbean pal­lette flows through­out the house

ABOVE, RIGHT AND BE­LOW: Caribbean colours in the mas­ter, guest and twin bed­rooms

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