Oh Country Girl
I can’t really decide if I’m a city girl or a country girl at heart. I mean, both have their obvious charms and I love the two in equal measure. But is there anything more relaxing than staying somewhere peaceful, relatively remote and away from the madding crowd? No I think not, (especially if you’re a sometimes frazzled mum of boys like me and you yearn for some kind of country retreat).
At the end of June this year, I was lucky enough to stay at Fair Oak Farm in Mayfield, Sussex – a bucolic slice of stylish heaven if ever there was one. Winner of the coveted accolade of The London Evening Standard’s ultimate country retreat, Fair Oak Farm is a 12-acre country estate near Tunbridge Wells. It boasts a wonderful 16th century Grade 2 Listed Farmhouse at its heart, set within a pretty English country garden. If that’s not beauty enough, there’s also a range of stunning converted farm buildings, barns, eco-lodge tree houses and shepherds huts too, which you can enjoy and where you can stay in complete luxury with friends or family or both!
Talking of friends, I invited four of my most favourite people along to enjoy this slice of Arcadia. All of us are mums, so the idea was to relax, experience a change of scene and tune out for a few days, as well as do a fashion shoot for the blog. We all decided to stay in the 5-bedroom farmhouse as we wanted the chance to be able to cook together and enjoy each other’s company, but there’s plenty of other group accommodation we could have utilised. As it was, the farmhouse was just perfect for us and our plans to unwind. Downstairs was roomy and open plan with a large dining table and doors leading out to the expansive gardens and lavender beds complete with a view of the peacocks which roam the grounds. There were also two cosier rooms much like snugs styled beautifully with natural linens, vintage finds and deep sofas – perfect for chatting late into the night – as we did! In fact the interior design was right up our street, with the gorgeous original 16th century features juxtaposed with more modern, industrial touches – such a compelling and photogenic combination. Think Soho House in Sussex!
It was a REAL treat to have the whole place (including the grounds) to ourselves for those days. Although my photographer friend Katie, her assistant Amy and I worked hard shooting for two days, the rest of the time was spent walking in the gardens, exploring the grounds, cooking on the AGA, chilling in the cinema barn or just marvelling at the peacocks displaying their tail feathers to us. We decided to stay in for the three nights we were there, soooo chillaxed were we, but we could have gone to the local pub if we wanted. That’s the thing with Fair Oak Farm, you can make it a home from home if you need to and never leave its roomy environs. There’s plenty of outdoor seating and fire pits so you can sit out under the stars come dusk with a glass of wine if that’s your thing. There’s even a zip wire which we all agreed our kids would have loved. In fact this would be an ideal place for children if you were staying with a big group of friends – it feels safe enough to hypothetically let the younger kind run about and plenty of the accommodation is on the flat for those with very small kids.
The large barn can also seat 36 people for dining and Fair Oak Farm management can arrange for an in-house caterer to cook you and your guests something delicious if you so desired – perfect for a special Birthday or corporate event. The decor in the barn was something else and while we were shooting in there, we marvelled at the bar area and rich blue colour on the walls and notably the huge lamps hanging from the vaulted ceilings – all painstakingly sourced by the owners to fit in with their design vision for the estate. On the subject of our fashion shoot, I was fortunate enough to be lent an array of gorgeous evening dresses from and also shoot some beautiful Boho inspired ditties from the likes of Hope & Ivy, Jarlo, Fame & Partners, Free People to name a few (blog posts on these items to follow soon!)
It was a dream to shoot clothes at Fair Oak Farm. There are so many wonderful features and details that can be used in photography here. From the oak beamed architecture of the farm house (which really gets the honey-hued afternoon light upstairs as we discovered to our delight on our first day!), to the lavender beds outside, the expanses of manicured lawn and verdant archways resplendent with roses in June. This sheer variety is what makes Fair Oak Farm so special, but there’s also a lightness of touch to the whole place, making it easy to totally relax in. It’s an all season kind of place too – we imagined what it would be like to light the fires in winter and go on frosty country rambles to the local pub or venture into chi chi Tunbridge Wells nearby for some retail therapy and people watching, glad to return come the end of the day for some more of that Fair Oak Farm magic..
For more info on Fair Oak Farm and all it has to offer visit www.fairoakfarm.co.uk
Many thanks to the following:
The dream duo! Katie Knight Adams who took all the fashion photos along with her assistant Amy who both worked SO hard over the two days and to the rest of the lovely girl gang in general for coming along for the ride. 🙂 www.katieknightadams.com
To Ruth and Paula of Cinderella’s Prom in Brighton who kindly lent me some showstoppers of evening dresses that made the photos so special www.cinderellasprom.com
Huge thanks also to my fabulous stylist friend Dani of Colour Lab who came to consult on our colours and what suited us! It was a complete revelation! Thanks Dani. www.fashionstylistshandbook.com