Today I’m sharing photos from a recent trip to Goddards House in the idyllic town of Abinger Common in Surrey. Located 45 minutes south of London, this tranquil country estate was our home for a creative slow living retreat with food photographer and stylist Beth Kirby of Local Milk.
Built between 1898-1900 and later expanded in 1910, the two-level house is comprised of two cottage wings connected by a central range with surrounding gardens. The first floor includes a study, library, dining room, kitchen and a skittles (bowling) alley, and the second level are sleeping rooms.
Goddards was originally built as a holiday rest home for “ladies of small means”. This was the idea and private charity of original owner Frederick Mirrielees, a wealthy businessman who had married an heiress of the Union Castle shipping line. Mirrielees later updated and enlarged the house for his son and American wife to live in. Ownership changed over the years and the property is now leased by the Landmark Trust for holiday stays, like our retreat.
I was joined by nine other creative women traveling from the US, UK and Spain. Embracing the winter days, our time in the house was filled with plenty of eating and chats around the dinner table, sipping tea, knitting and all things cozy by a warm open fire. A big focus of the retreat was photography and we spent the in-between hours studying light and the composition of food and props for styling and storytelling. And one day we ventured to the market town of Dorking for some antique shopping, lunch and ale drinking at a local pub.
In addition to Beth we were accompanied by other talent, including food photographer and stylist Marte Marie Forsberg, knitting and weaving instructor Natasha Siedel, and private chef Aaron Teece. I’ve long admired Marie’s work, so it was lovely to have both her and beth on this trip. Natasha brought her hand spun, naturally dyed English wool and taught us to knit warm hats which we wore to brave the cold outside. And it was a delight to have Aaron source local provisions and prepare our delicious English meals–he was a former private chef to the Queen, Margaret Thatcher, Kate Moss and many other notables.
For the past several years I’ve attended many creative retreats hosted in unique destinations and this one was truly exceptional in terms of quality and activity. If you’re seeking an escape to someplace magical filled with incredible food, spectacular sites and days full of crafting, photo taking and friend making, I highly recommend going with Beth. For upcoming retreats visit her site.
And for more details about a stay at Goddards, click here.
o all photography by leslie santarina.