Standen in East Sussex is one of our go-to places for a family day out. There is something there to please everyone.
The house was designed in the Sussex vernacular by Philip Webb as the country retreat for the Beale family who moved there in 1894. Featuring a wealth of William Morris wallpapers and fabrics, it is a welcoming family home, laid out for a weekend party in the 1920s.
The garden is equally inviting, with an abundant kitchen garden, glorious herbaceous borders under the house and a woodland paradise complete with a magical Quarry Garden.
It was rather chilly when we visited on the first May Bank Holiday weekend, and the thousands of tulips planted for the Spring Tulip Festival were just going over, but there was still plenty to see and do.
The Kitchen Garden was just getting going with rhubarb ready to be harvested and the apple trees in blossom. While the main productive season is yet to come, structure is provided in this working garden by evergreen shrubs, the silvery foliage of cardoons and the delicate green leaves of Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla mollis).
Around the house are more formal beds, although true to the Arts and Crafts style, these are planted with herbaceous perennials rather than Victorian bedding. The wisteria was at its romantic best on the Lavender Lawn and we were very impressed by two early flowering yellow roses around the house: Rosa banksiae ‘Lutea’ and Rosa xanthina ‘Canary Bird’. Orange wallflowers provided jollification and clouds of pink forget-me-nots swathed around what was left of the tulips.
Our five-year-old was very taken by the Quarry Garden with its pixie paths, ferns, wooden bridge and Rhododendron lutea.
Standen is only a short drive from chalk downland, but up here in the Sussex Weald the soil is ericaceous, meaning that rhododendrons are a real feature of the Spring garden here.
All three children loved the woodland play area, particularly the wooden maze and a rusted metal sofa nestling in a willow alcove.
In the orchard we were intrigued by the danger of active bees (and couldn’t stop laughing when a little boy heard me read out this sign then went back and told his mother: ‘Danger, there are actually queens!)
I can’t recommend Standen highly enough for a visit, although like all National Trust properties it can get busy on Bank Holidays and at weekends. When summer arrives, you can even buy produce from the Kitchen Garden from a little stall on the walk back to the car park.