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.



Thursday Thoughts from a Surrey Family Photographer

Wiltshire horn ram by family photographer Amanda Darling

Hi friends,

So it's 2018, the children went back to school on Tuesday and I ventured into the office for the first time this year. It took a while to reach the desk as I had to do a major tidy up- it was the place where we put everything we didn't want to see over the holidays!  Now at least I can use the keyboard, even if the room isn't looking like a spread from House Beautiful. But I have plans to be tidier this year.....

I did my last photography shoot in the week before Christmas.  Then treated myself to stepping away from the everyday tasks to invest in learning and planning for 2018.  This included 2 workshops and a planning away day- and it was fantastic.  As my photography business has grown I have needed to upgrade and streamline systems.   This will allow more time to shoot more family photography sessions, while serving my clients even better.  Exciting things on the way for 2018- watch this space.

So what's new on the farm, since the last update?

(You can see some other posts about the farm here)

  • We're expecting the pitter patter of little hoofs again this Easter as lambing starts.
  • We had spectacular success with selling our beautiful pedigree rams to flocks far and wide this season.  (When I say 'our' I mean Eamonn's as he does all the work!)
  • Last year we began clearing out some of the old woodland, to provide better conditions for the beautiful native trees to flourish along with the wildlife, and it's starting to look wonderful.  It means there is access to previously impenetrable areas- and as a bonus, more lovely areas to photograph in.
  • The recent rain has refilled the ponds, ready for spring and frogspawn.
  • Inside, there is finally a new family bathroom (we've only lived here for 6 years!).  And we found that the Georgian part of the roof was built using a beautiful oak branch complete with bark. We need the Time Team to come to the farm - I bet we'd find some really interesting history here!Sheep grazing on Noke Farm, SurreySo, till next time, enjoy your weekend...




Monday Musings from a Surrey family Photographer

Family Photoshoot in Walton on the Hill, Surrey, KT20 by Amanda DarlingHappy Monday Friends,

Don't some days just flow pefectly? I leapt out of bed this morning, the kids made it easy by being ready for school EARLY, the sunrise was spectacular and I even remembered to take my vitamins!  The school bus was on time, I was in and out of the supermarket with no queues and slid onto my office chair at 9:30 on the dot.  Bam! (as my 12 year old would say).

The reason for my happy endorphins?  My 2017 family photography shooting season started last Saturday- and I am so happy to be behind the camera again and shooting sessions for the lovely families of Surrey, Sussex and Kent.   I have an absolute beauty of a family photoshoot to share with you later this week- something a little bit different and a lot special, so watch this space.

So what is new this week?

  • The evenings are definitely getting brighter- isn't it lovely picking the children up from school before dark?
  • It's exam week (again!)- is it just me or haven't we just had an exam week?
  • I have just had all my kit cleaned and serviced- thank you Nikon- and it was like Christmas getting the box of camera bodies and lenses back.  I definitely felt strange without them.
  • We have spring cleaned so much here at the farm over the last month
  • Newsflash: you can walk across my daughter's bedroom without treading on something
  • Outside on the farm, the ewes are all eating enough for two, and we eagerly await Easter and the arrival of the lambs
  • We had the last blackberry and apple that I froze from last autumn's harvest- what a perfect taste of late summer to lift us in the middle of winter

Let's keep up this happy week.  Have a great one everyone....

Monday Musings

A branch laden with crab apples
The tree is laden with crab apples- gorgeous autumn colour

Happy Monday everyone!

It's now well and truly autumn here on the farm- the leaves are falling, and we've been tidying up for the winter.  Our sheep are in wonderful condition with all the lush grass and sunshine , and our rams are being loaned to other flocks to strengthen bloodlines.  We've had pears and a super crop of figs.  The bees haven't had a very productive year as the spring flowers were late and it was very wet when they should have been building their supplies, so we've left all the honey to the bees to strengthen them this winter.  I love this season, with its chilly nights and lovely sunny days, and so far this autumn it's been perfect.

So what's new this week?

  • 'Adulting' is a new word this week- it describes a teenager acting grown up.  So now you know.
  • We went to see the Peking Opera on Saturday night and it was fabulous-  stunning costumes, breathtaking acrobatics and  sword fights, gorgeous scenery and a wonderful love story.  Perfect for all ages, and there were subtitles!  It's fun to do something completely different.
  • As the days draw in, it's time to start thinking stews and hotpots.  In my search for the perfect vegetarian chilli, I tried a new recipe this weekend.  Just the right amount of spice and definitely 8 out of 10.  Yum
  • I received a really special homemade gift from my 12 year old yesterday.  It was a 'pick me up tray'  with essential oils, tissues, scented candles and pretty flowers for my hair that she had put together herself. #precious moments
  • Looking forward to half term next week.  Nothing planned yet.  Maybe just sleep in everyday.

Fingers crossed for more sunshine and perfect walking conditions....don't forget to take your camera!

Have a lovely week x

Monday Musings- Start like you mean to go on

Surrey Family Photographer Amanda Darling's high ropes photpHappy Monday Friends!

So we are recovering from the mother of all busy weekends- and there was no alcohol involved!  I had no family photography sessions this weekend, so I took lots of fun photos at Rowena's birthday party instead.

In 60 hours, we managed to cram in hosting a survival evening for the guides at the farm, 2 birthday parties, a sleepover, helping at a tea party for 40 delightful senior citizens and a full day rehearsal for the school play.

Reading that back makes me wonder how we did it!

As ever, lessons learned and points of note:

  • Is it just me or did we go to sleep last night in June and wake up in November?
  • Dear Miss Hunter-Blair, Rowena worked very hard on her maths probability boardgame this weekend, but she is very tired and I am sorry if she falls asleep in class.
  • Why is it always so difficult to get plain black leggings for play performances in summer? Don't the clothing shops realise that there are hundreds of desperate mums hunting the rails for winter leggings in the middle of summer?
  • Why do I always leave the search for black leggings till the last minute?
  • No matter how tired you are at 6.30am on a Monday, if you play Smells like Teen Spirit very very loudly and jump around the kitchen like you're 17 again singing at the top of your voice, you will be unstopable afterwards. Start Monday like you mean to go on.

Now that have shared my foolproof get up and go formula and I am completely awake, I have a gorgeous family photography session with delightful twin girls to share with you on Wednesday. I can't wait!

Have a wonderful week everyone.....

Monday Musings- half term in the Isle of Wight

Amanda-Darling-Photography-Family-Photographer-SurreyHappy Monday friends,

Half term arrived with a tidal wave of relief and loud joy- no more exams!  We had a couple of days of luxuriously long lie-ins, leisurely lunches, and lovely walks.

Then we all packed up and went to the Isle of Wight for a few days. I have never been before- the only one of us that hadn't- and was very excited. We had good weather and really enjoyed ourselves.

Some highlights from our trip:

  • A couple of years ago I decided that a holiday is only a holiday if it involves absolutely no cooking whatsoever, and I am glad to say that last week was a fantastic holiday!
  • The Isle of Wight has so much to do that we ran out of time, and will have to go back
  • Catching a ferry is fun when it's only for a 45 minute crossing
  • The island has some stunning scenery- cliffs, rolling hills and valleys, pretty sailing towns, ornate Victorian Villas and really beautiful beaches
  • If you love fossil hunting then head to the Isle of Wight -it is a fossil hunter's paradise

All in all a perfect place for a staycation. Hope you like the view from our balcony, above.

Have a lovely week everyone!

Thursday thoughts- exams!

Happy Thursday Friends,

Things have moved around this week because I have been shooting and editing. I did an exciting photography session on Monday which I shall blog in a few weeks, it was something completely different and will be revealed when it’s ready. The time just flew. Such perfect weather this week too- feels like a holiday when we can eat outside and bask in the warmth. Who needs to go away when we have everything here?

Along with many of you, exam week is upon us and I am supplying treats and cuddles on demand.

So as ever, what’s happening here:

  • Apparently maths was the hardest exam ever and needed a whole chocolate bar to guarantee recovery
  • Did you know that exam revision can be done on Instagram? Me neither!
  • Sourdough bread is completely delicious. It barely gets unpacked from the shopping bag before it disappears
  • I’ll be able to take down all the post it notes of revision words littered around the house. These are used to associate information with a mental map of the house. Then it can be retrieved by ‘walking through the house’ during an exam. Sounds like something out of Sherlock!
  • I think we’ll be having a curry on Friday to celebrate the end of exams. Yum.

A rather foody entry today- and not a vegetable in sight.

Have a wonderful week everyone....

Monday Musings- a weekend on the farm


I hope you are loving this wonderful weather. We had every set of French windows open yesterday and it was magical. The bees buzzed gently, hardly a sigh of a breeze and the smell of freshly cut grass in the sunshine- heaven.

We had no plans at all, which was a lovely change and so instead we caught up with all the jobs that have been hanging around. Eamonn topped the weeds on the fields and I blitzed the garden. The garden and fields looked immaculate and I also know that tomorrow nature will fight back and it will look like we haven’t touched it for weeks! Thank goodness I like the natural look…..Amada-Darling_photography-Surrey

  • The 2 lambs we have been hand rearing in our garden (Daisy and Aiofe) are now big enough to go out into the flock. They were relocated from their 5 star garden shed accommodation with ensuite garden to freshly topped fields. They complained loudly to the management at first, but soon settled in with their new friends.
  • Never let chickens roam around a garden with newly seeded flower beds.
  • A firepit piled high with glowing logs on a cool evening is a wonderful end to a beautiful day.

Now that summer’s really on its way, let’s enjoy every drop of sunshine.

Have a wonderful week everyone!

Monday Musings- memories, Pimms and family


Happy Monday friends,

When I think of my childhood, we always spent our weekends at home; my parents gardening and we children running in and out of each other's homes and gardens, roller skating on the pavements outside and riding our bikes up and down the road, and round the block.

By contrast, this weekend we had mums vs daughters' rounders, a youth club outing to Airhop and a leisurely family walk and picnic around Walton Heath. Then, of course, there was the revision (whatever did children do before revision?!).

I often wonder how my children will look back on their childhood.  And I hope their feelings and memories will be of happy family times, like our long walk on Sunday, and not revision.


As ever, worth mentioning:

  • Gone are the days when the words "going for a walk", resulted in an excited scramble for any outside footwear.  Teenagers need good reasons to go for a walk- luckily 'picnic' was one of them.
  • Walton Heath has a fantastic crisis-cross network of footpaths, and plenty of cool woodland walks to shelter from this weekend's sun.  We must go more often.
  • We were out walking for a good part of Sunday afternoon and I only counted 7 other walkers.  This part of Surrey is usually overflowing with walkers- where was everyone?
  • Mums vs daughters rounders was such fun in the sunshine.  I designated myself mum and children photographer (A wise move as running was hot work). The reward for all our efforts came in the form of Pimms- yes!!!!!

Lots and lots of children's photography this week.  This post is later than usual because I've been photographing already in, amongst other places, a nursery. Super fun. I am photographing children again tonight at a Ballet and tap show, which will be fantastic.  Then later this week I'm taking a little break from post-production to catch up with one of my lecturers from my photography degree for lunch, and see his latest project- uv photography.  Sounds amazing.

Whatever you have planned, enjoy your week!

Tuesday Talk


Dear Friends,

Well yesterday was a bank holiday, so Monday musings has morphed into Tuesday talk. Here’s hoping you all had a fantastic three day break- whilst it was showery, it was warm and bright for large parts of the weekend and you can definitely feel spring has sprung. So here’s what’s new at Noke Farm:

  • The Bluebells! Earlier this year and absolutely glorious. Our woods are full of them.
  • We had a family golf lesson on Saturday, what a laugh. I could be hooked.
  • I photographed a really lovely family for the FOURTH time this weekend. I fall a little bit in love with every family I photograph and honestly I feel they are part of my family now, it’s been a real honour to watch their children growing up.
  • I had chocolate this weekend for the first time in 4 weeks of eating super healthily. They tell you that the sweet and sugary things you used to love, taste horrible when your taste buds recalibrate to healthy foods. They lied.
  • The best smell in the universe: freshly mown grass on a warm evening- hello spring!

With 2 sessions planned this week, I am excited.  This is lucky as I have lots of post- production to do, a bag to check and pack and an office that looks like a tornado has passed through.  Better get cracking.....

Have a wonderful week!