Our favourite city farms in London
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. The focus of the park is 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.
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.
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 (Kimby the alpaca), buy grass nuts to feed the animals or squeal over the newly born ducklings, chicks and lambs. For kids, there is also a youngfarmers club and 'Own A Pony Days' for a taste of life on the farm.
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.
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.
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 free cookery classes, a young farmers' club and gardens growing produce and herbs.
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.
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.
This 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 to teaching pottery, woodworking and more. There's a cafe, plus a new children’s garden constructed from recycled materials such as an old car and bathroom suite.
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Opera-themed restaurant TWID is a picture of old-school opulence. Everywhere you look there are velvet swags and gilt flourishes. Squint and you can imagine it’s the ’80s and that’s Andrew Lloyd Webber in the next booth, taking his latest leading lady for a slap-up dinner. But TWID's nightly opera performances are more than enough to blow any lame retro cobwebs away. The night I visited, a seriously talented soprano was making the restaurant ring to the sounds of everything from to Rossini to jazz standards – even the odd Disney song. Like its star performer, TWID works best when it blends old and new. Generous ‘small plates’ of cod and roasted duck had a French-accented allure that was heightened by their delicately flavoured accompaniments of Jerusalem artichoke and pickled cauliflower. And the hefty plateful of plump, tender scallops was worth starting a fork-fight over, especially with the unlikely but delicious addition of fresh raspberries. TWID's modish collection of vegan and raw food dishes felt a little less assured. The kimchi was the star of the show, resplendent in two dainty, cabbage-wrapped towers, and bursting with zesty flavour. By comparison, the slightly soggy stuffed mushroom had all the charisma of a diva caught in a rainstorm. And although tarty daubs of raspberry sauce made the raw chocolate cake look just as naughty as the divine salted caramel torte, its wholesome taste was a little frumpy. Still, it feels ungenerous to carp on about the occasional