If you’re spending Easter in London, visit one of the capital’s brilliant city farms where you can pet animals, watch beekeepers, ride ponies, eat local produce and support local wildlife habitats
1 Mudchute Park and Farm
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 Mon-Sun 8pm-5pm, free entry. Pier Street, Isle of Dogs E14 3HP; 020 7515 5901; mudchute.org
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.
Open Tues-Sun 10am-4.30pm, free entry. 1a Goldsmiths Row E2 8QA; 020 7729 6381; hackneycityfarm.co.uk
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 Mon-Sun 1am-5pm, free entry. 1 Cressfield Close, off Grafton Road NW5 4BN; 020 7916 5421; ktcityfarm.org.uk
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. Now in its seventh year, the 2015 fundraising event is expected to attract a large crowd of over 1,000 people and there will musicians, cocktails and other entertainment available on the day for £12 a ticket. If this doesn’t sound like your kind of thing, come down on another day to visit the other much-loved 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. Buxton Street E1 5AR; 020 7247 8762; spitalfieldscityfarm.org
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, a male Norfolk Bronze turkey, and Stinker and Jemima, mother and daughter ferrets with a penchant for raw eggs. There are regular opportunities to watch spinners using traditional techniques to spin wool from the farm’s sheep and alpacas, plus lots of fun over Easter including an ‘Own Your Own Pony’ day where children can learn how to ride and care for a pony on 1, 8 and 10 April. Make sure you keep an eye on the website as a new café is also set to open later in the year.
Open Wed-Sun 10.30am-4pm, free entry. 165 Tyers Street SE11 5HS; 020 7582 4204; vauxhallcityfarm.org
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 forget to visit the Spring Fair on 16 May: it’s an opportunity to support the farm and watch live sheep shearing demonstrations throughout the day.
Open Mon-Sun 10am-5pm, free entry. Rotherhithe Street SE16 5ET; 020 7231 1010; surreydocksfarm.org.uk
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, £7.50 adults, £6 children, concessions available. Faggs Road, Feltham TW14 OLZ; 020 8831 9658; hounslowurbanfarm.co.uk
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. Stepney Way E1 3DG; 020 7790 8204; stepneycityfarm.org
9 Deen City Farm
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. 39 Windsor Avenue, Merton Abbey, Nr. Wimbledon, Merton SW19 2RR; 020 8543 5300; deencityfarm.co.uk