There’s something both traditional and modern about Pick Your Own (PYO) farms. These working farms, where you pick fresh fruit and veg and then pay at the farm shop, hold nostalgic memories for many of us, harking back to the time when holidays meant trips to the seaside. Once there were thousands of them in the UK, but now there are only a few hundred — yet they’re currently enjoying a resurgence. With the rise of urban gardening, they appeal to the modern Londoner who likes to know where his/her food comes from, is concerned about air miles, and seeks out local, seasonal produce packed with higher nutritional value. When the sun is high, nothing beats being out and about in fresh air, feeling connected with nature by picking summer fruit and veg in a wide, open field.
PYO Dos and Don’ts
If you’ve never been to a PYO before, you’re in for a treat — but there are some rules to observe. Baskets, bags, punnets and sometimes wheelbarrows are usually provided, but some farms may make a small charge, so take your own containers if allowed. Wear old clothes and shoes that you don’t mind being stained, take gloves to protect yourself against nettles and brambles, and don’t forget to wear plenty of sun cream.
Don’t go in a large group — a PYO is really not a place for an office party. Pick enough to make jams and chutneys or fill the freezer by all means, but don’t take more than you need: it’s easy to get carried away and end up with excessive amounts and wastage. Wash the fruit and veg gently before eating; and, other than tasting small samples, don’t eat while picking. Harvest only ripe fruit: unripe fruit should be left to ripen for other customers. Don’t trample on plants and shrubs, and be careful not to damage the crops. Pick only what you’re meant to: for instance, pumpkins, not pumpkin leaves which may be a delicacy in some cuisines, but pulling them out would damage the plant.
We’ve been told that, in addition to stringent health and safety regulations, the main reason for so many PYO farms shutting down over the years is the behaviour of people who treat them as free-for-all, eating a lot of produce on the farm rather than buying it. This leads to great financial losses, as the farms are usually family-run businesses. So be mindful that a PYO is somebody’s livelihood, and be respectful at all times. And remember to pick up litter afterwards.
The information in this article is current and up to date at the time of being published — so before setting out for a visit, check the farm’s website or phone their information lines (updated at least daily in most cases) to see whether it’s open on the day, and what produce is available. If a farm runs out of produce, it may well close temporarily. Note that prices vary according to the weather, seasons and availability, so the ones listed below are subject to change.
Warning: may involve day trips out of London proper and necessitate the use of a car. We have attempted to provide public transport options from central London. Good luck!
Parkside Farm, Enfield
This award-winning 50-acre farm grows over 20 different crops, and is the only PYO we could find in London. Currently they have ‘table top’ strawberries (a system of growing crops that enables you to pick them without having to bend down) as well as ones grown on the ground (£4.59/kg). They also have spinach, swiss chard (£2.99/kg for both) and a great deal of beetroot (£1.69/kg). Raspberries, redcurrants, broad beans and courgettes are expected within a week. Note that there’s a minimum spend of £3 per person.
How to get there: catch a train from Finsbury Park to Gordon Hill and the farm is one mile away, take the tube to Cockfosters and it’s three miles away.
McLauchlans of Boxted, near Colchester
Specialising in summer berries, this long-established farm is open for PYO from late May to late August. At the moment they have strawberries (£4.25/kg), cheaper jam strawberries (£3.50/kg), gooseberries (£3.50/kg) and mature broad beans (£1.60/kg). Raspberries and dessert gooseberries are coming up soon, followed by redcurrants by the end of the month.
How to get there: the train from Liverpool Street to Colchester takes almost an hour then you can catch the village bus service to take you to Boxted.
Mill Farm, near Thorrington
Only strawberries (£1.80/lb) are available at this picturesque farm — and note that they’re priced by the pound rather than kilo. The farm is only open during June and July, and this year they’ll close mid-July when the season finishes.
How to get there: train to Colchester again, then minicab it seven miles.
Cammas Hall Fruit Farm, near Bishops Stortford
Owned by the Lukies family for around 130 years and located on the Hertfordshire / Essex borders, this farm was one of the pioneering PYOs in the 1960s. Perfect for a great day out for all the family, it has a farm shop, children’s play area and tea barn with plenty of indoor and outdoor seating. Currently available are lots of strawberries grown on tabletops, gooseberries and the first few raspberries.
How to get there: trains from Liverpool Street to Bishops Stortford take betwen 40-50 minutes, then you catch the Village Link 5 bus to Hatfield Broad Oak and walk, or just get a cab from the station — it’s a 15 minute drive to the farm.
Hawkswick Lodge Farm, St Albans
Open June to August, this farm closed for a couple of days this week to allow the strawberries to ripen, but now has a good crop, along with the first few gooseberries and redcurrants. There’s a minimum charge of £2 per adult and 50p per child aged 5+.
How to get there: train from St Pancras to St Albans takes 20-30 minutes, then catch the 321 bus up Harpenden Road to Hawkswick stop.
Graveley Fruit Farms, Hitchin
Located amid beautiful countryside, this family-friendly farm boasts a children’s adventure playground, tractor and trailer rides, pet pigs for feeding, car boot sales and a café. Fruit is grown in polytunnels using the ‘table top’ system. Strawberries (£4.90/kg) are in plentiful supply at the moment; and raspberries and blackcurrants will be available shortly. Entrance is free.
How to get there: train from Kings Cross to Hitchin take up to 45 minutes, then take the 54 bus to Graveley.
Pearce’s Farmshop & Café, Buntingford
Owned by the Pearce family, this farm is open for PYO from May to October. Different varieties of strawberries that ripen at different times are grown using the ‘table top’ method, and are available from this week for the next few months. Raspberries are also currently ready for picking. The farm’s café utilises these fruits on its dessert menu.
How to get there: the train from Finsbury Park to Hertford North takes about 35 minutes, then walk to the bus station and take the 331 bus north up the A10.
Grove Farm, Leighton Buzzard
This 80-acre farm grows over 30 different crops. Onions are currently ready to be picked (45p/kg), along with strawberries and gooseberries (both £3.65). Many more fruit and veg will become available in the coming weeks. You can take your own picnic — plenty of picnic tables are available except at very busy times, when staff will advise you on nearby picnic spots. Note that pets are not allowed (except guide dogs).
How to get there: trains from Euston to Leighton Buzzard take about 50 minutes and then you can get a minicab for the 15 minute drive.
Copas Farms, Iver
There are separate ‘fruit festival days’ here if you simply want to go along to eat freshly picked fruit. For picking your own, currently there’s a little asparagus left but is coming to an end, broad beans, and the first few strawberries — and the farm may close early if they run out. There’s a minimum charge of £3 per person, but it’s offset against purchase. There’s also another Copas PYO Farm at Cookham in Berkshire.
How to get there: train from Paddington to Iver takes 20 minutes, then cab it to the farm.
Millets Farm Centre, Frilford
Open June to September, this 50-acre farm has over 30 types of fruits and vegetables, including traditional, old-fashioned varieties. On site there’s a farm shop, garden centre, café, restaurants, craft gallery, woodland, children’s playground, zoo and much more. Currently available for picking are strawberries (£4.15/kg) and raspberries (£6.99/kg).
How to get there: train from Paddington to Didcot Parkway. If you can get to Abingdon or Wantage there’s a free bus service on a Tuesday. Otherwise, get a cab, shouldn’t be more than 15 minutes.
Grays Farm, Wokingham
Run by three generations of the Gray family, this award-winning farm is open for PYO from end of May to September. There are strawberries (£4.50/kilo), gooseberries, raspberries, cabbages, cauliflowers, spinach, broad beans, broccoli, courgettes and marrows currently available. Coming up soon are currants and potatoes.
How to get there: train from Waterloo to Wokingham is 50 minutes, then you’ll need a mini cab.
Cobbs Farm Shop & Kitchen, Hungerford
A destination for food lovers, this 55-acre farm has a recently planted a five-acre vineyard, café, deli, butcher, fishmonger and florist, and runs seasonal events throughout the year. Only two fruits are available for picking at the moment: gooseberries (£3.50/kg) and strawberries (£4.95/kg).
How to get there: train from Paddington to Hungerford is about one hour. The website says the farm is a minute’s drive along the A4 but we can’t work out the buses so get a cab.
Sprawled over 150 acres, this slickly run farm claims to be UK’s largest PYO. You can harvest different varieties of over 30 types of fruits, vegetables and flowers between May to October. There’s a wide choice at the moment, including strawberries (£4.49/kg), raspberries (£6.99/kg), blackberries (£4.99/kg), gooseberries (£3.99/kg), beetroot (£1.99/kg), broad beans (£2.49/kg), broccoli (£2.49/kg), carrots (99p/kg), cabbages (99p/kg), cauliflowers (99p each), courgettes (£1.79/kg), spinach (£2.49/kg), mange tout (£4.99/kg) and sugar snap peas (£4.99/kg). Also on site are a restaurant and award-winning farm shop and garden centre; and the company also owns another farm at Titchfield in Hampshire.
How to get there: a train from Waterloo to Esher takes about 30 mins. You can walk to Garsons in 40 mins or get a minicab.
It’s no secret that Secretts is one of the best-known farms in the UK. It grows a huge range of fruit, veg, salad leaves and micro-shoots — many of them rare or unusual — on its enormous 150-acre site. It supplies to supermarkets, greengrocers, farm shops, health food shops and restaurants. There’s a lot going on at the farm, including farm shop, garden centre, gardening school, restaurant, butcher, vintage tea room and florist. As you go past open fields, idyllic lakes and wildfowl, there’s plenty available for picking. Currently they have broad beans, asparagus (£5.99/kg), chard (£1.95/kg), peas (£2.79/kg), rhubarb (£1.50/kg), strawberries (£4.49/kg) and gooseberries (£3.99/kg). Next week red and blackcurrants will become available; and a few more items next month such as raspberries, plums and sweetcorn. PYO is open on either part-time or full-time basis between April to October.
How to get there: a train from Waterloo to Milford takes 50ish minutes and you can probably walk it from there.
Avalon Garden Centre, Churt Farnham
It’s rare to find a PYO that offers blueberries in the UK, but this friendly farm has been growing them for 30 years, long before supermarkets started promoting them as ‘superfood’. They’re available from July until mid-October, depending on the weather. Strawberries have just become available, and are also grown until October.
Avalon Garden Centre, Tilford Road, Churt Farnham, Surrey GU10 2LL. Tel: 01428 604842. No website.
How to get there: a train from Waterloo to Farnham takes about an hour but you’ll definitely need a cab. In fact, it’s probably more sensible to drive to this one.
Flower Farm Shop, Godstone
Situated in the stunning North Downs in the heart of Surrey, this PYO is open from June until the end of August. It comprises farm shop, traditional butcher, vineyard and tearoom. Strawberries (£3.95/kg) are currently ready, and raspberries will become available in July. The owners’ second farm, Heathfield Farm in Croydon, has now closed.
How to get there: get a train from Victoria to Caterham and it’ll take you about 50 minutes. Then take the 400 or 509 bus to Godstone Village.
Crockford Bridge Farm Shop & Pick Your Own, Weybridge
Located close to London, this friendly farm houses ice cream parlour, restaurant, coffee shop, farm shop and garden centre. Over 20 different crops grow here; and current availability includes strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries, rhubarb and spinach. The farm hosts festive events at Halloween and Christmas, and even gives you a rare opportunity to ‘dig your own’ Christmas tree.
How to get there: get the train from Waterloo to Weybridge in about 30 minutes. Then get a cab, it’s not far.
Grange Farm Shop, near Chichester
Located in the pretty village of Funtington in the south of the Downs, this farm is home to a highly acclaimed farm shop. Available for picking at the moment are strawberries (£3.95/kg) and gooseberries (£4.95/kg). Raspberries, redcurrants and blackcurrants will become available very soon. If the weather is bad or the crops are not ready, they may have to close the orchard on certain days.
How to get there: it’s an hour and half on the train from Victoria to Chichester then five miles to the shop, so probably best to cab it.
Roundstone Farm, near Worthing
Open from end of May to end of September, this farm certainly makes life easy by providing tractor trains to access the crops. Currently ready for picking are strawberries, rhubarb, broad beans, a few onions, carrots, beetroot, and pink and white kohlrabi. Broccoli and cabbages (savoy, red and primo) are coming soon. Running parallel to the PYO season are car boot sales on Sundays.
How to get there: get a train from Victoria to Goring-by-Sea or Angmering-by-Sea (takes a while but very pretty) and take the 20 minute walk.
Sewards Strawberries, Bolney
Open during the strawberry season of June and July each year, the Seward family’s farm focuses only on one fruit (£4/kg), but offers five different varieties. ‘Elsanta’ and ‘Lucy’ are two that are ripe for picking at the moment.
How to get there: take a train from London Bridge or Victoria to Haywards Heath in 45 minutes. Walk up Perrymount Road and you’ll find it on the edge of the park. UPDATE & APOLOGIES: Well, you’ll find the site marked on Google Maps but unfortunately you won’t find the farm, which is a short drive away, actually in Bolney. Get a minicab!
Maynards Pick Your Own Fruit, Wadhurst
Not to be confused with Maynards Farm in Shrewsbury, this lovely PYO is open from around mid to late June, the start of the strawberry season, through to late September. There’s a shortage of strawberries (£3/kg) this year due to the wet winter, but gooseberries (£3/kg) and cherries (£4/kg) are currently available, and raspberries will come up in a week or so. Maynards is one of the few farms to grow tayberries and loganberries, which will be in season next.
How to get there: a train from Charing Cross to Wadhurst takes about an hour. Then it’s a reasonable woody walk or a short cab ride.
Sharnfold Farm & Shop, near Eastbourne
Tayberries and loganberries are also available at this fun, friendly farm, along with strawberries and gooseberries. Entry is free, but you pay for the produce and prices vary regularly according to availability. PYO is open from April to end of September; and other highlights include farm shop, coffee shop, children’s play area, fishing, farm trails and various events throughout the year, from Easter egg hunt to pumpkin carving.
How to get there: the train from Victoria to Eastbourne takes an hour and half. Then catch the Stagecoach 1A bus heading for Hailsham.
Stonehill Farm, Horam
Owned by the McKay family, this PYO currently has ‘table top’ strawberries, raspberries and gooseberries available. They’ve just introduced home-made jams in their farm shop; and are growing boysenberries for future.
How to get there: tricky. Try a train to Stonegate from Charing Cross and a cab. Although we’re open to better options, readers!
Stanhill Farm, Dartford
Located just 17 miles from central London, this large 150-acre farm harvests around 20-30 types of fruit and veg each year. It’s owned by brothers Toby and Max Williams, who developed it from a farm that once supplied to a supermarket, to one that focuses on the wholesale market and PYO. You can pick strawberries (£4.40/kg), gooseberries (£4.50/kg) and a few raspberries (£8.50/kg) right now; and blackberries and currants will also become available by the end of the month. There’s an acclaimed farm shop, vegetable box scheme, and this year they’ve introduced the popular Maize Maze. PYO is open from around end of May/ beginning of June until October.
How to get there: take a train to Bexley from Charing Cross and it’s a 10 minute taxi ride.
Hewitts Farm, near Orpington
Set amid 78 acres, this family-run farm is open as a PYO from June to October. Currently they’re only open intermittently with strawberries, gooseberries and spinach ready to pick; but will throw open their doors more regularly from the end of June / early July. Phone to check the hours, availability and prices — which are not listed on the website as they fluctuate according to the produce’s scarcity or glut. Also on site are farm shop, car boot sales and unique furniture and gifts hand-made from the farm’s own-grown wood.
How to get there: take a train from Victoria to Knockholt — takes about 50 minutes. It’s an easy walk from there on a public footpath.
Foxendown Fruit Farm, Meopham
This is a small family business that owns two farms, Foxendown and nearby Broomfield, located in the charming village of Meopham in the North Downs, near Dartford Crossing. PYO is open from June to mid-September, and currently ripe for picking are a few new-season strawberries (£4.20/kg), early raspberries (£6.80/kg) and gooseberries (£2.60/kg). Prices may drop as more produce becomes available.
How to get there: take a train from St Pancras International to Gravesend, in about 25 minutes then hop in a taxi.
Do you know any other fabulous PYOs near London? Tell us in the comments box below.