London City Farms: The Lowdown

By Hazel Last edited 29 months ago
London City Farms: The Lowdown
Stepney City Farm
Stepney City Farm
Ruling the roost at Stepney City Farm
Ruling the roost at Stepney City Farm
Rabbits and ferrets and guinea pigs, oh my!
Rabbits and ferrets and guinea pigs, oh my!
A friendly goat at Stepney City Farm
A friendly goat at Stepney City Farm
Rural arts at Stepney City Farm
Rural arts at Stepney City Farm
Surrey Docks City Farm
Surrey Docks City Farm
More goats: this time at Surrey Docks City Farm
More goats: this time at Surrey Docks City Farm
Fantastic views at Surrey Docks City Farm
Fantastic views at Surrey Docks City Farm

You may think you know city farms, you may have been to a few; but if pressed on the matter, could you be insufferably knowledgeable about them? We've drawn together the questions you've never got round to asking about city farms. Brush off your tweeds, get your wellies on and go forth to farm...

I've got kids who want to go to a farm but as they're city types, I don't want to scare them with too much farm. Where's best for an introduction to farm life?

Try Coram's Fields. It's a park, with a paddling pool, play areas and small farm where they can meet goats, rabbits, geese and chickens. It's very child-focused: adults are only permitted if accompanying children. Stepney City Farm is more farm-y but has mini-tractors and scooters in the yard for kids to play with should they get bored or scared of the animals (and their smells).

I want to see a really big farm without going too far from central London. Like, really big, big enough for tractors and distant barns.

Go to Mudchute City Farm. It's really big, one of Europe's largest, covering 32 acres.

I'd like to keep a horse or at least access one occasionally, and learn to ride. But as I can barely fit a three-seater sofa in my flatshare in Zone 3, I don't see how I can fulfil this dream.

But you can! There are British Horse Society approved equestrian centres in Mudchute City farm (south-east) and Deen City Farm (south west), offering horse riding courses, pony clubs and stables for safe horse storage. Kentish Town City Farm and Vauxhall City Farm have weekend pony rides and horse clubs. Note: none of these are 'Horse Cafes', do not roll up thinking you can have a little trot and a cuddle then wander off for a flat white in the middle of a gymkhana.

What if I go to a farm and am overwhelmed with an urge to try some rural arts, like pottery, ironmongery and woodwork?

As long as you're at Stepney, Surrey Docks or Hackney City Farm, you'll be able to indulge your urges. Stepney City Farm is a Rural Arts Centre and has a traditional forge, a pottery workshop and woodwork courses; Hackney City Farm has a pottery workshop and mosaic classes. There's a forge at Surrey Docks. Head to any of these and you'll be in the right place to get your craft on.

I just want to see some owls.

Okay. Go to Deen City Farm, there's a well-known owl there. Newham City Farm has exotic birds and birds of prey if one owl isn't enough for you.

What about bee-keeping? I really want to get in on some apiary action.

Freightliners, Hackney, Newham and Surrey Docks City Farms will provide you with the bee action you require. Surrey Docks has a Bee Room, and river views so... there you go.

Is there a way of seeing all the farms in one day?

Yes. If you're mad, you can follow this frankly balls-out insane cycling challenge to see them all in a 30-mile, eight-farm, eight-borough route. It takes five or six hours to complete, not including time spent at the farms. The route can be taken in sections, so can be completed in sensible, enjoyable chunks. Or you can wait until 19 September for the City Harvest Festival at Capel Manor College when all the city farms come together for a giant celebration of all the good things they do, all the big vegetables they grow and all the nice animals they care for. Dates and details are still provisional but check out last year's City Harvest Festival to get an idea of what the day will be like.

With thanks to the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens, farmgarden.org.uk

Last Updated 16 June 2015

Michelle

I'd just like to correct one piece of information, to avoid any disappointment. Vauxhall City Farm does not do weekend pony rides. All our riding lessons are taught lessons and need to be booked in advance. We offer lessons 6 days a week (not Tuesday) until 9pm Mon-Fr and 5pm Sat & Sun, as well as stable management sessions and Own A Pony Weeks over the half terms.