Where to take the children for a day out: Standen House Sussex

One of the best investments I made for our family was a National Trust annual membership.  Whenever the dreaded words "I'm bored, what can I do" are spoken in our house, we bundle into the car and off we go.  Within half an hour's drive from us here in the Surrey Hills we have at least 6 major house and gardens to visit. And our favourite at the moment is Standen House.Photo of Standen House guide National Trust It's in Sussex, just on the edge of East Grinstead and straight down the A22, an easy drive from Reigate or anywhere with access to the M25.  It's setting is stunning- nestled into the hillside and surrounded by farm and woodland, so particularly beautiful in autumn.Photo of Standen House National Trust in the Autumn by Amanda Darling Photography

Of all the houses I've visited with the National Trust, this is the one I could live in (!) It has it all- spectacular views, beautiful walks, fabulous vegetable and flower gardens, yet it's homely and warm.

Let's start with the countryside- there are plenty of walks. The Hollybush walk takes you from the carpark round to the gardens and is easy for youngstersphoto of Autumn childrens photo shoot Amanda Darling Photography Photo of Standen House National trust from the fieldsit's fun to follow the boardwalk through the trees, over streams and rootsChildrens photography Standen House Autumn by Amanda Darling PhotographyThere are fallen trees to climb, streams to poke about in and little paths to explore-  look out for the dragon.

Family photo shot Surrey Hills by Amanda Darling PhotographyThere's plenty to see in the house itself.  Its set up like the family home it once was, and packed full of interesting pieces.  For children who like drawing, one of the rooms is a studio with crayons and paper to keep the children busy and old art supplies and equipment to inspire budding artists.  And for grown ups there's the whole history and its Arts and Crafts style to enjoy.Photos Inside Standen House National Trust by Amanda Darling PhotographyThe back stairs areas are particularly good and you can learn about the servants, kitchens and their lives in detail.

Back outside, go up behind the house.  There are short walks around the woods and gardens, with lots of little areas to explore.

Photo of the Quarry garden and fernery at Standen House National TrustThe quarry garden is carved down into the rocks with a pond and plenty of ferns

Photo of the Bothy and the interior of the bothy at Standen House National TrustThe bothy further up the path, is my children's favourite. A tiny hut furnished with wood and tartan.  Climb up the ladder, sit on  the cushioned ledge and try to look through the stained glass.

Photo of meal at Standen House National Trust

We used to take picnics when the children were small, but teenagers are wise to the delights of curry and crumble, so we often have lunch in the barn- it may be why they're always so eager to go when I suggest a visit!Phot of the little people's room Standen House toys and vintage toysGo and find The Little Room at the back of the house. Climb the steps and you're in the Beale's children's playroom, full of traditional toys and dressing up clothes.

Photo of the orchard and beehives at Standen HouseTake time to go round the gardens-  the vegetable garden is wonderful. And autumn is a perfect time to visit the orchard with its beautiful beehives- little bee activity and plenty of hives.

Photo of boy with pumpkin at Standen House National Trust by Amanda Darling Photograohy There's always something to do at Standen and something new to see. Special exhibitions, activity sheets and new rooms and exhibits.  This autumn, they're displaying pumpkins, squashes and gourds they've grown in the gardens.  They're everywhere and very beautiful.

Photo of Pumpkins squashes and gourds at Standen House National Trust

So if you have the chance go to Standen House, you may find it becomes your favourite place too.



Why it's important to get mum in the photo - Surrey Family Photoshoot


So often mum is behind the camera or the iPhone.  She's the recorder of family events and moments.  But as a mum, how often are you in front of the camera?  I'm hardly in any photos with my children- at the time I didn't notice as I was too busy taking the photo.  But now eldest is nearly ready to leave for university, I realise that there's not as much of me to remember as I would like.  I have been grouping together photographs for each of my children for a photobook that they will take with them when they spread their wings and fly, and it has been both wonderful and a little bit of a wake up call.

And when I am doing surrey family photoshoots, more often than not I hear from mums that it's such a treat to be in the photos and not corralling the rest of the family.  But I also hear things like "I don't like to have my photo taken"- that they think they'll wait and lose a few pounds, need a hair cut, they're not wearing the right clothes..... the excuses go on and on.  But I want to say that it is so important for you to be in the photograph with your family, whether you think it's not important or you'd rather be behind the lens than in front, because you will never have that moment again, and you are building those moments so you must be in them.

So I make a special effort with my family photoshoots to capture the special moments with mum.  And I thought I'd share some of my favourites with you for inspiration, along with some simple tips on how to enjoy the moment and get some lovely photographs that are natural and full of expression.

Here are 5 tips to help you relax and enjoy yourself in front of the camera and get photographs that you and your child will treasure forever.

Mother and baby photoshoot Surrey

Tip 1:  You don't have to be looking at the camera to get meaningful images.  If you feel awkward smiling for the camera do something you enjoy: focus on your child.  You are giving them the greatest gift of your time and your joy and love will come through in the photograph.  Notice too, how the image is focussed on the child and mum is softer- that can enhance the emotion and connection in the image, giving a more natural feel to the photograph.

relaxed natural family photoshoot surreyTip 2: Black and white can simplify the image to concentrate on what's important- the connection.

mum and child cuddle in photographs emotional and natural surrey photoshootTip 3: Cuddles, cuddles, cuddles.  Its one of the greatest feelings in the world to hold your child, and that can make a simple but deeply meaningful photograph. When I take a photograph like this, I think of the beautiful feelings that the child will feel when they look at this when they're grown up.happy family photoshoot surreyTip 4: A simple look. Instead of smiling at the camera, look at your child, tell them something they'd love to hear and enjoy their reaction.

teenage photoshoot surrey happy lifestyle photographyTip 4: Share a moment together.  As your children get older they can be less cuddly- but your changing relationship means you can share moments as equals.  Get someone to do something off camera that you'll both laugh at.

older child family photoshoot SurreyTip 5: Get in the photo whatever age your children are.  Sometimes as our families grow up, life gets busy and we take fewer photos.  But these can be the most precious- teenagers about to go to uni, family get togethers with grand parents- capture those moments forever.

So next time you're getting out the iPhone or camera, please don't stand behind it, hand it to someone else and ask them to take the picture- you'll be glad you did.

Or if you'd like to book me for a Surrey Family Photoshoot then get in touch, or check out my family photography page here