City farms in London
Find urban green spots and cute animals in London
There are some parts of London that remain resolutely rural. Sonya Barber rounds up the urban agriculture across the city.
Nestled on the busy throughway between Broadway Market and Columbia Road, Hackney City Farm has become a fashionable stop-off for ambling weekend marketgoers, thanks in a large part to its Italian café deli Frizzante, serving hungry Hackney folk fresh seasonal Mediterranean cooking and tasty farm breakfasts. The café may be a big draw but the rest of the farm is thriving with happy animals, a pottery studio and garden. The farm is a vital community hub with a vegetable box collection scheme for locals and courses on low-impact living and beekeeping. There is even a bike repair and service centre, so you can cycle your veg home.
- 1a Goldsmiths Row, E2 8QA
One of London’s largest farms, Mudchute Park and Farm covers 32 acres in the Isle of Dogs. The farm itself is surprisingly compact, but full of animals, many out in the fields, plus a petting zoo and duck pond. Unfortunately the café has recently closed, but the main focus of the park is still the thriving, large Equestrian Centre, a riding school for all ages with an all-weather floodlit riding arena, show jumps and cross-country fences across the many acres. However, if this sounds too adventurous, just bring a picnic to have in one of the many green fields, watch the horses trot by and pretend you’re in the countryside.
- Pier St, E14 3HP
If you spend Sundays munching bagels and rummaging for vintage bargains on Brick Lane, you’re missing a trick not to visit this urban oasis built in a former railway goods depot. There are many rare breeds of animals: stop by and visit characters such as Bayleaf the donkey and Bentley the goat, or pick your own veg. The farm also reaches out to local residents with projects like the ‘Coriander Club’ for older Bangladeshi women, free cookery classes, a young farmers' club and gardens growing produce and herbs.
- Buxton St, E1 5AR
If you have ever been on the Overground noticed horses near Gospel Oak station, you will have had a sneak peek at Kentish Town City Farm. Tucked in and around the railway, a treasure trove of wildlife unfolds as you explore: goats romp under brick arches, sheep bleat over the whirring of nearby trains and frogs croak in a lively pond. Children are at the heart of the farm, with a range of weekend workshops, an under-fives activity room and a dedicated team of local young volunteers. With councils cutting funding, farms like this will struggle to continue this good work, but they are keeping spirits up with a range of activities, including building a working kiln.
- 1 Cressfield Close, off Grafton Rd, NW5 4BN
Spread over 29 acres, Hounslow Urban Farm is one of London’s largest community farms and is a fun family day trip for families from Feltham and beyond. Take a stroll around the paddocks, feed the wide range of farm animals (including pig, goats, cows, rabbits, ducks, geese, alpacas, chipmunks and rheas – flightless birds), have a picnic, but whatever you do, don’t miss the weekly pig racing.
- Faggs Rd, Middx, TW14 0LZ
Nestled on the Thames Path, Surrey Docks Farm is a rural delight only a few moments from the mayhem of Surrey Quays shopping centre. After an arson attack in 2010, the farm is back to full strength, noticeable in the happy animals, flourishing gardens and well-kept grounds. There is also a new café, a little sister to Hackney City Farm’s Frizzante, with the same great food but more chance of a seat. The farm is bustling and busy with daily donkey rides, plus various projects such as a monthly market, yoga, massage, a blacksmith’s forge, allotments, mobile farm and more.
- South Wharf , Rotherhithe St, SE16 5ET
Comprising two farms, Hayes Hill and Holyfield Hall, Lee Valley Park Farms features vegetable plots and plenty of opportunities to see animals large and small – including cows, pigs, chickens, rabbits and guinea pigs. The 'World Beneath Your Feet' area is dedicated to what lurks below the ground, from worms to ants. Soft play is on offer in the Bundle Barn, while the Hilltop Adventure Zone includes a spider climbing tower and giant jumping pillow.
- Stubbins Hall Lane, Waltham Abbey, EN9 2EF
This entirely volunteer-run farm and craft centre has been open for nearly 30 years, offering a green creative space for Stepney. Education is one of the key pillars of this farm, which is reflected in all the activities: from community growing workshops for local people and the ‘Stepney Scoundrels’ volunteering programme, to teaching blacksmithing, carpentry, alternative energy, animal husbandry and more. A café is currently being built, plus a new children’s garden is also under construction using recycled materials such as an old car and bathroom suite.
- Stepney Way, E1 3DG
You may be surprised to find this compact farm just off the busy main Vauxhall junction, but it has managed to pack in a range of animals, duck pond, ecology garden (complete with bog, wormery and stag beetle nursery) and community allotment, which grows plants used as dyes for the spinning classes that take place on the farm. There is also a riding school with a paddock across the road, which is probably the only place you can keep an eye on MI5 while out for a gallop. Plus the farm’s dedication was recently rewarded with a prize for ‘Commitment to the Community’ and was winner of ‘Business of the Year’ at the Lambeth Business Awards 2011.
- 165 Tyers St, SE11 5HS
Newham has been here for over 30 years now. Alongside the usual farmyard poultry, sheep, pigs and goats is the largest animal on the farm: Blaze, a shire horse, who pulls a dray cart that visitors can ride in. There are also some smaller, furrier chaps (rabbits, guinea pigs and two ferrets), a twittering house of finches and Sarah the barn owl. There's a play area for toddlers with ride-on toys and a recently built covered outdoor learning space that doubles up as a picnic area.
- Stansfeld Road, E6 5LT
Thanks to the opening fo the London Overgorund line it's now much easier to visit this farm. Crystal Palace Park Farm is very much a community-focused centre and well used by local schools, who get guided tours with an education officer. In the small yard and paddock, there are kune pigs, alpacas, goats and Shetland ponies, while the smaller animals are up a steep ramp. Children are always fascinated by the reptile room too. In the afternoons, casual visitors can often handle the smaller animals, if there's a free member of staff handy.
- The Croft, Ledrington Road, SE19 2BS
Set on part of the National Trust's Morden Hall Park Estate, Deen City Farm provides south Wimbledon with a healthy dose of the countryside. Meet the farmyard residents (including Milo and Kimby the alpacas), buy grass nuts to feed the animals or squeal over the newly born ducklings, chicks and lambs. With funding cuts looming, the farm is determined to stay open and is continuing to offer its Growing Garden community project and free bicycle surgeries. For kids, there is also a youngfarmers club and 'Own A Pony Days' for a taste of life on the farm.
- 39 Windsor Avenue, SW19 2RR
Despite being only open for a year, Belmont Children’s Farm’s mission to open a farm for the community seems to be working, as it has already become a wildlife hub for Mill Hill. Alongside the usual range of animals, the farm also boasts rare breeds and more exotic animals including alpacas, storks, wallabies and snowy owls. Take a tractor ride around the farm, feed the animals, practise your riding skills on a horse simulator and meet newborns. The Waffle Café serves breakfasts and teas.
- The Ridgeway (next to Sheepwash Pond), NW7 1QT
Islington’s small community-run farm is battling against large government cuts but is determined to keep afloat. Hidden behind the blustering Holloway Road, Freightliners is a vibrant hub of wildlife with a wide range of animals. There is also a great vegetarian café with tasty daily specials, all housed in a volunteer-built eco building. There is also a small petting zoo, bee hives, vegetable gardens and even animal boarding for local pets. Make sure to stop by the shop to pick up some homegrown honey, eggs or veg too.
- Sheringham Rd, N7 8PF