A Place in the Sun presenter Amanda Lamb on why happiness is at home in Hampton
As the presenter of A Place in the Sun, Hampton Hill resident Amanda Lamb gets to travel to some of the world’s most glamorous destinations – but she says she’s never happier than when she gets back home to her Victorian town house, her favourite local restaurants and Surrey’s beautiful parks…
For nearly a decade, it was the enigmatic smile and ghostly presence of the black-cloaked lady in the Scottish Widows adverts that made Amanda Lamb one of the best-known faces on television. But off-screen, she is nothing like as remote and mysterious, and thanks to her more recent role as presenter of A Place in The Sun, her true personality has been allowed to shine through.
Despite her exotic schedule, extensive travels and overseas filming, however, it is at home, in her beautiful Victorian town house in Hampton Hill, that Amanda feels most happy. Each time she returns from her travels, she slumps with a sigh of relief into her comfy sofa and is glad to be back.
“Of course, I still really love to travel, but coming home is always the highlight for me now,” she says. “My home is my sanctuary; our house is just the best place in the world! As life is so busy, having a home I can really relax in is absolutely vital.”
A model career
Amanda’s career in the spotlight began when she was approached by a talent scout at an exhibition and asked to try out for a modelling job. Despite her gorgeous looks and 5’11” height, she had never considered modelling before but went along to the meeting anyway. What a job to land: playing the now iconic lady in the Scottish Widows adverts.
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It was a role that would continue for nearly ten years, until in 2001 she left to try her hand at television presenting and became the face of popular property programme A Place In The Sun.
Since then, she has presented a number of TV shows, including Market Kitchen, What The Neighbours Did and often appears on The Wright Stuff. Most recently, she has been hosting My Flat-Pack Home, in which she travels the country following the people who are living out their dreams during the construction and erection of their very own personal grand-design projects.
“I love my work and have some great projects lined up,” she says. “But I do miss home a lot – and especially my bed! We have a huge Vi-Sprung bed in which you could fit an entire football team. It’s absolutely ginormous! When we were little, we would all hop into my parents’ bed for a chat on a Sunday morning and that is what we do now with our daughter. I think it’s a nice tradition to carry on.”
Thirty-nine-year-old Amanda lives with her fianc� Sean McGuinness, who she is marrying this year, and their nearly three-year-old daughter, Willow Rose.
“Ours is a real family home,” she says. “I love the style of the Victorian houses; I definitely prefer old things and old buildings to new ones. I can understand the beauty of modern architecture but when it comes to furniture I like pieces that have some history attached to them.”
There are plenty of local shops selling unusual furnishings for a uniquely designed home like Amanda’s and one of her particular favourites is Attic in Hampton Hill.
“I get so many things from Attic!” she laughs. “They have simply super pieces of furniture, lovely gifts and great furnishings. I bought an old aluminium trunk and 1920’s German dresser there, which I adore.”
Although her home may be furnished in an eclectic manner, Amanda is incredibly organised. She claims to have, “...a touch of Monica from Friends about me,” and then adds quickly, “but I don’t think I am quite as bad as her…”
As Amanda and her cameraman fianc� Sean are away so much, they wanted to create a calm and peaceful environment to live in, and the whole house is painted white from top to bottom, with lime oak floorboards throughout.
“I don’t want chaos when I get home,” she says. “It would be awful to come home to a disorganised house. It would drive me insane; I just couldn’t handle it.”
Amanda has lived in or around the Richmond area for the last 15 years. Part of the attraction is the vast, green, open spaces that Surrey offers.
“We are always visiting Bushy Park and Richmond Park or Hampton Court Gardens,” she says. “We also discovered the Isabella Plantation recently, which was just magical. The woodland is stunning whatever the time of year. My daughter loves running about there.”
The other noticeable thing about Hampton Hill is the friendly nature of the residents. Everyone seems to be neighbourly; something that seems to be becoming more unusual these days.
“Hampton has a real village feel about it,” says Amanda. “It is almost old-fashioned and I like that. It’s the only place I have ever lived where I know the majority of my neighbours. In fact, once a month, the ladies of the area go out for dinner together.
“I can walk down Hampton Hill High Street and know people by name. That is something I cherish and I find it so refreshing. You don’t get that in ‘proper’ London, as I call it.”
Amanda is also mindful of the environment in which she is bringing her daughter up.
“I wondered whether this would be the kind of place I would want Willow to be when she is a teenager and into shopping on her own… Well, it absolutely is! It’s just lovely; I am a huge fan.”
The parks also provide Amanda with a great place to go running. She completed the Great South Run this year and had to do lots of training to maintain her physical peak.
“Physical peak!? I wouldn’t say that!” she laughs. “We are very close to Bushy Park and I did go running there a lot. I would come home after each session and flop down in an ungainly heap. I could usually be spotted hurling round the park, very red in the face and out of breath.”
When she does get some time to relax, Amanda loves eating out with her family. She reels off some of her preferred restaurants…
“A Cena in Richmond is one of my all-time favourites,” she says. “There’s also a wonderful little deli in St Margaret’s where we go all the time. He does the best coffee in the world! Then, in Hampton Hill, there is a wonderful restaurant called Pizza Firenze. I am also a big fan of The King’s Head; it’s great. And, of course, Petersham Nurseries is just lovely too.”
Amanda will often pick up new and exciting vegetable plants from Petersham Nurseries for her fianc� to nurture in their vegetable patch. She is in charge of flowers while Sean manages the vegetables. They love pottering in the garden, and Willow especially loves digging in the mud and generally getting all mucky in the flower beds.
“We have a little vegetable patch, which is really nice,” continues Amanda. “We had a great crop of tomatoes and garlic this year. Although the cucumbers didn’t grow, which was a shame... we only got one ropey gherkin!”
If there is a good crop, the vegetables may make it into one of Amanda’s great big hearty casseroles; she also loves creating a big family meal when she has the time.
“More often than not, I ‘bulk cook’ and make a big batch of something hearty, freeze half and then you’ve another meal all ready for next week. It’s great. I love doing casseroles.
“It’s the simple things that are the best. And for all my travels, I still prefer to be milling around at home: cooking, relaxing and perhaps enjoying a glass of red wine.”
My Favourite Surrey...
Restaurant: The Victoria in West Temple, East Sheen, near Richmond Park. It’s run by my friend, the TV chef Paul Merrett. You get the best Sunday roasts in the world!
Shop: Robson’s Butcher’s in Hampton Hill for great cuts of meat and cheese and ham.
View: From the top of Richmond Hill – it’s perfect.
Place to visit: Hampton Court Palace because the gardens are so lovely to explore.
Pub: The White Cross in Richmond, which is on the river, and The Bell Inn at Hampton.