9 OF THE BEST CITY FARMS IN LONDON TO VISIT WITH KIDS
About This Event
London isn’t all skyscrapers and museums – there are plenty of city farms where kids can pet animals, watch beekeepers, ride ponies, eat local produce and support local wildlife habitats
1. Mudchute Park and Farm, Isle of Dogs
Children of all ages will love Mudchute Park and Farm. Not only is it the ultimate playground – a 32-acre site of fields and farmland in the Isle of Dogs created from mud scooped out of the dock – it is home to over 100 animals and livestock, award-winning stables, a day nursery, after-school club, and a ‘living classroom’. In addition to the regular array of horses, donkeys, geese, and turkeys, there is a collection of British rare breed animals, plus llamas and alpacas. Regular petting and feeding sessions take place, although prior booking may be required. If you need a sit-down – the farm advises at least two hours for a visit – relax at Mudchute Kitchen, the farm’s restaurant; it’s possible to forget you’re still in London. Open daily, 9 am-5 pm. Free entry.
2. Hackney City Farm
Donkeys Larry and Clover are the star attractions of this city farm, which sits right by Haggerston Park. Larry, who has been at the farm for 10 years, has featured on TV and regularly participates in the annual nativity parade at Westminster Cathedral. You can also meet two Tamworth pigs, a host of goats, chickens, plus other four-legged friends. The farm has developed exponentially since opening in 1984. Frizzante, the fantastic on-site café arrived in 2002 and has been serving excellent local produce since, and there are now regular events throughout the year, including bee-keeping, pottery and apple-pressing classes, plus seasonal events like the Christmas Fayre.
3. Kentish Town Farm
Holding the title of the UK’s first ever City Farm, Kentish Town Farm has more to it than first meets the eye. The urban oasis in North London, which celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2012, is a pretty sprawl of stables, allotments and community gardens located in the centre of Gospel Oak. The four and half acre site is home to a plethora of farmyard animals including geese, donkeys and pigs. Its newest addition, Winston the horse, arrived last November and is a handsome Show Cob. He is one of four horses that provide cheap riding lessons for local disadvantaged children. The farm also has an educational programme and regular tours for local schools and organisations. Open daily, 9am-5pm. Free entry.
4. Spitalfields City Farm
Forget the annual boat race, the real contest between Oxford and Cambridge takes place on the same day but between a pair of goats, hoofing it around the cobbled track of Spitalﬁelds City Farm. The annual fundraising event has been running more than 10 years, pulling in crowds of more than 1,000 people with musicians, cocktails and other entertainment. If this doesn’t sound like your kind of thing, head over on any other day to visit cute animals like Bayleaf the Donkey, or visit the wildlife garden that will be blooming during spring with bluebells, snowdrops, columbines, wild garlic, violets and much more. You can also buy fresh vegetables, wildflowers and learn how to grow food from the team at the volunteers’ vegetable garden. Open Tues-Sun, 10am-4pm. Free entry.
5. Vauxhall City Farm
Tom, Ben and Jerry – the shy alpacas with seriously cool haircuts – are the favourites of many a visitor to this south London farm. In addition, you can meet Trevor the turkey and his three girlfriends, Gladys the chicken who has almost 10,000 followers on Instagram, a delightful Mischief of Goats (not the proper collective noun, but true, none the less!) and many more. During half terms and holidays, there are opportunities to take part in activities such as Cuddle Corner, where you can meet the small animals up close and personal, and the Farm Trail, which helps you explore the entire site – and you get a prize at the end! The farm also runs Own A Pony days, where children can learn how to ride and care for a horse (this February half term, Own A Pony days are running on the 18, 20 & 21 February. Open Tues-Sun, 10.30am-4pm. Free entry (donations encouraged).
6. Surrey Docks Farm
This cute farm has a very relaxed vibe about it. Occupying a 2.2 acre site in Rotherhithe, Surrey Docks provides opportunities for visitors and the local community to learn about farming and food production through affordable workshops on growing, cooking, crafts and animals. The farm is currently awaiting funding for new courses, so visit the website regularly to keep updated with news. The working farm has a host of adorable animals farmed to free range standards and an apiary, where you can buy honey – check it out between April and September when the bees can be seen flying about in the warmer weather. A must-do is the afternoon ‘meet our small animals’ sessions where you can bottle-feed lambs and see newly-hatched chicks. And the must-see animals? It has to be the uber-friendly pigs. Don’t miss the annual Spring Fair in May. Open daily, 10am-4pm. Free entry (£3 donations encouraged).
7. Hounslow Urban Farm
It may be situated slightly further out of town, but Hounslow Urban Farm’s 29-acre location makes it one of London’s biggest community farms. A new tropical zoo is currently being planned next door, and when finished, it will contain a living forest with exotic animals, education facilities and a soft play area. Until then, meet more familiar animals from peacocks and guinea pigs to turkeys and chickens. There are even African Leopard tortoises. During the weekends and holidays, check out an ever-changing line-up of family activities including animal encounters, owl displays, Shetland pony riding and pig races. Open Mon-Sun, 10am-5pm. Entry £7.50 adults, £6 children.
8. Stepney City Farm
This community farm was created by local residents in 1979 on a derelict site bombed in World War II. Sadly, by 2009 the site had fallen into disrepair and faced closure until a new charity – Stepney City Farm – was created, once again, by the local community. It has steadily grown since, becoming the success story that it is today. To help sustain its continued growth, a farmers’ market is held every Saturday, providing food sourced from within 100 miles of Surrey, and a farm café serves delicious breakfasts and lunches using fresh local produce and quality coffee. A rural arts centre also opened here in 2013 providing workspace for three artists whose work can be purchased by visitors. In addition, the usual array of farmyard animals are on site to delight and entertain urban dwellers. Open Tues-Sun, 10am-4pm. Free entry.
9. Deen City Farm, Colliers Wood
There are over 200 animals at this lovely farm, which is located in Colliers Wood near to Wimbledon. You can pet and feed the friendly animals, which range from the large (Daisy, Fenix and Poppy the cows) to the small (Edna the barnyard owl). The on-site professional riding school hosts lesson for all abilities, plus there are pony rides for children aged seven and under on Wednesdays at midday, Saturdays & Sundays at 3pm during term time, as well as during the holidays. For gardeners, there is a hidden garden known as the ‘Growing Gardens Community Project’, brimmed full of vegetables plots, colourful paths, a wildlife area and pond. There is even a turf maze, which is overlooked by an eco-cob building, featuring the Fizzy Bottle Roof designed by artist William Waterhouse. Pre-booked farm tours led by experienced employees are available for £3.50 per child (minimum charge of £30 applies). Open Tues-Sun, 10am-4.30pm. Free entry.