Over the past few months we’ve had a good few days out, visiting various places here in the South East of England. Some have been revisits to places we’ve enjoyed before, others have been new acquaintances. I always take photos to document our days out, and I’ve been meaning to write about them here on our blog, but have struggled to get it done.
If you follow us on social media, you might have caught a few glimpses of what we’ve been up to. Perhaps you’ve also seen my blog post from about three months ago, about me getting diagnosed as anemic, which goes some way towards explaining the lack of blog posts getting done over the summer months. That blog post, which you can find here, was illustrated with a photo of a very tired-looking Penguin, sitting on a chair in a stairwell at Standen House and Garden, which we had then recently visited.
So, now that I’m pulling myself together to do a series of blog posts on Days Out in the South East, where better to start than at Standen? Here goes!
Standen House and Garden is situated near East Grinstead in West Sussex, and is a prominent example of a home in the Arts and Crafts style. The house was designed in the early 1890’s by Philip Webb, who was a close friend of the perhaps most famous person of the Arts and Crafts movement, William Morris. The interiors are filled with wallpapers, textiles and furniture made by Morris & Co, as well as decorative objects by other renowned manufacturers of that era.
The house was originally comissioned and owned by a wealthy family from London, James & Margaret Beale and their seven(!) children. When their youngest daughter Helen passed away in 1972, the property was left to the National Trust, and it’s now open to visitors all year round (only closed on a handful of days, such as Christmas Eve and Day).
The day we visited Standen on was a very hot and sunny summer’s day. Penguin hadn’t slept well at all (hence, nor had I), and we didn’t get off to the greatest start, as we decided to approach Standen from the South, rather than going all up to East Grinstead and then back down from there. That turned out to be a bad choice, as the road we ended up on was barely a road at all for some parts, and not much wider than our car for quite a long stretch, meaning we had some difficult times with meeting traffic etc. So my advice to anyone planning to visit Standen would be to go via East Grinstead, which is probably what Google maps and any other device would suggest as well.
As we got there feeling quite hungry and weary, we decided to start off our visit with a snack from their cafe. On most of our days out we bring our own snacks with us, but this time we hadn’t brought much and felt an urgent need for coffees, so into the cafeteria we went. Penguin is a very selective eater (though currently much better than when he was younger), so we weren’t too sure if he would fancy any of the baked goods etc that was on offer. But he went straight up to the scones and seemed determined to give them a go, so that’s what we went for. (After this, scones became a bit of a favourite of ours and we started baking our own quite regularly, which you can find out more about in this blog post).
After gaining some energy in the cafe, we went to explore the outside of the main house, and then up through the Quarry Garden. This part of the garden was where sandstone for the building of the house was actually quarried, and it was then turned into a steep rock garden, featuring a pond and many unusual plant specimens. Over the years, this area of the garden became overgrown, but a lot of work has been done in recent years to restore it. On the sign here it can be seen how gardeners had to abseil down to clear the rock surfaces!
From the Quarry Garden, we followed a path leading towards a large nature play area. There were some fun wood carvings and other sculptural objects along the route, and we also caught a first glimpse of the amazing views.
In the play area, there were logs and branches for children to play with, balance on, and build dens with. There were also a couple of structures to climb on, a few picnic tables etc. For Penguin, it would probably have been more interesting if there had been a few more different things to climb, balance or swing on. But on this hot day, we were really just thankful to find that it was a very shady and somewhat cooler place to hang out for a while.
As we headed back towards the house, we took a slightly different route and found a small gazebo, perfect for stopping at for a moment to take in those views…
Did I mention that it was a REALLY hot day?! Before making it back to the house, we took yet another shady stop, as Penguin spotted a bench under a tree. The view wasn’t too bad from there either, so we ended up sitting there for quite a while, looking down towards the house, watching bees and butterflies fluttering about above the sloping meadow in front of us. And we found some spiky conkers, too.
Eventually, we got ourselves moving again, and made it back down to the house, walked through some of the more formal garden areas, and across a lawn where they’d put a croquet set and some deck chairs out, for visitors to enjoy. (Similarly, there were games and deck chairs on the lawn between the cafe and the house, too.)
We soon reached a beautiful and peaceful pond area, which offered another chance to sit ourselves down and enjoy some shade again…
By this point, we felt that Penguin’s lack of sleep the previous night was really catching up with us, so we went back up to the house, hoping to manage a quick walk through those famous arts and crafts interiors before calling it a day.
Unfortunately I haven’t got many pictures from inside the house, mainly because it was quite busy in there, but also as we just wanted to get a glance of it all before completely running out of energy. I could also add, that it’s not the easiest place to visit if you, like us, have a child who likes to familiarise himself with new surroundings by touching everything. There are a lot of gorgeous and quite valuable decorative items dotted about in all the rooms, and not all chairs, sofas etc are okay to sit down on either.
While the interiors might not be very ‘child friendly’, the outdoor spaces certainly are, with all the different areas to explore and lawns to play games on etc. And from a learning aspect, you could use your visit here for learning more about history (late 19th – early 20th Century), art & architecture (arts & crafts, the aesthetic movement, the Pre-Raphaelites, Morris, Webb, stone houses, etc.), and of course nature and plants (there’s a kitchen garden and orchard too, in addition to previously mentioned garden areas).
If you wish to bring a piece of Standen home with you, there are plants and produce for sale, and there’s also a small National Trust shop as well as a second hand book store.
If you’re a wheelchair user, Standen is unfortunately not the most accessible of places. The ground floor of the house and some of the garden areas are accessible, but areas such as the Quarry Garden isn’t, and I’m not quite sure if getting to the nature play area is feasable (the route we used had some steps and a lot of uneven surfaces). There’s one accessible toilet but no Changing Places facility. For more details, have a look under “Facilities and access” on their website, where you can find their full access statement as a pdf.
The website is of course also the place to find all other info needed for planning a visit. There are seasonal events, garden tours, trails etc at various times throughout the year, and if you wish to live at Standen for a few days that’s possible too, as they have a small appartment in the house available to book via the website!
All in all, I think Standen is a lovely and enjoyable place to hang out for a good few hours (or days, if you can afford the stay). And if you have a love for the arts and crafts style, as I do, it’s all the better.
Do you have a favourite style when it comes to architecture and/or interior design?And have you perhaps been to Standen too, if so, what was your experience like? Whatever thoughts are popping up in your head from reading this post, I’d be delighted to hear from you in the comments!
If you’ve enjoyed this post, you might also like some of our previous posts about other places we’ve visited, such as these: