Your animal sightings shouldn’t be just limited to the glimpse of foxes rummaging through your bins or a neighbour’s slightly sour looking pussycat. From Shoreditch to Surrey Quays, London actually has a surprising amount of city farms for you to visit. There are lazing llamas in Canary Wharf, energetic goats in Kentish Town or rare breed sheep off Holloway Road.
A lot of the farms have hands-on activities and workshops, so if you’re in the mood to muck in and get your hands dirty you can. It’s the perfect opportunity to get to see how the farms are run, get up close and personal with the cute creatures and learn how they’re kept happy. Many also host events, like the annual Oxford v Cambridge Goat Race and, if you can’t wait all year, pig racing, which happens weekly at Hounslow Urban Farm. So whether you’re after something to keep the kids occupied or you just want to coo over the animals yourself, here’s our roundup of the best city farms to visit.
RECOMMENDED: Outdoor London
Our favourite city farms in London
One the largest farms in London, 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 there's a petting zoo and duck pond. The focus of the park, though, 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 enjoy in one of the many green fields, watch the horses trot by and pretend you’re in the countryside.
In what used to be a brewery and nestled on the busy throughway between Broadway Market and Columbia Road, Hackney City Farm has become a fashionable stop-off for ambling weekend marketgoers. This is thanks in a large part to its Italian café, Frizzante, which serves 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, courses on low-impact living and beekeeping and practical courses for asylum seekers and refugees. 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 like Kimby the alpaca and Edna the barn owl, buy grass nuts to feed the animals or squeal over the newly born ducklings, chicks and lambs. For kids, there is also the chance to experience being a farmer for the day and the '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 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 and catch an owl display. Oh, and whatever you do, don’t miss the weekly pig racing (yes, really!).
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, a duck pond, an ecology garden (complete with bog, wormery and stag beetle nursery) and a 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.
Built in a former railway goods depot, this farm is an urban oasis just minutes from the bustle and electricity of Brick Lane and Shoreditch. So when you tire of rummaging for vintage clothes and have picked up the obligatory bagel, 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. And then there's the annual Oxford & Cambridge Goat Race, which is not to be missed.
Nestled on the Thames Path in what used to be a a smallpox and fever receiving station, 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 the rather cute Piccalilli Caff on site, which serves up some yummy grub. 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 and 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 working farm has been open for nearly 30 years, offering a green creative space for Stepney. Not only is there The Rural Arts Centre, but there's also a gallery that hosts classes. Really, 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. The farm's Furry Tales is an extra special initiative that brings together individuals from different generations and animals in a bid to tackle isolation and loneliness in Tower Hamlets. Then there's the award-winning cafe, plus a new children’s garden constructed from recycled materials such as an old car and bathroom suite.
Situated in Leyton and a part of Capel Manor College, Brooks Farm has been a staple of community life for over 20 years now, providing inner-city kids a chance to get up close to animals and learn farm-based skills and with both short-term and long-term courses on offer. Animals here include sheep, donkeys, ponies, goats, rabbits and hens, and you're encouraged to walk around at your own pace and meet them all. There's even animal feed available so you can make some furry friends.
Comprising of 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. There are also numerous areas to explore like Dino-chicken World, the Meercat Lookout and Rainforest Retreat. For even more excitement there's soft play on offer in the Bundle Barn, while the Hilltop Adventure Zone includes a spider climbing tower and giant jumping pillow.
Across 89-acres, this working city farm gives visitors the chance to see the inner workings of a farmyard and an opportunity to get up close to native bird species, butterflies, wild flowers and woodland. An events programme takes place throughout the year which includes themed walks, activities such as shelter building and sparrow spotting, and their annual barn dance, which takes place in an actual hay barn. Lambing Day is a spring highlight offering farm goers the chance to meet newborn balls of fluff, buy local produce and talk part in craft activities.
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. For an oasis in the city there's Strawbale Café, 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.
One of London's oldest and largest city farms, Newham has been here for over 30 years now. Alongside the usual farmyard fare (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. A play area for toddlers with ride-on toys and a recently built covered outdoor learning space that doubles up as a picnic area can also be found.
Thanks to the London Overground 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 kunekune 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.
Despite only being open for a few years, Belmont Children's Farm's mission to become a farm for the community seems to be working as it's already become a wildlife hub for Mill Hill. The farm is home to the usual range of animals but also boasts rare breeds and more exotic cratures, such as alpacas, storks, wallabies and snowy owls. You can take a tractor ride around the farm, feed the animals, practice your riding on a horse simulator and, at 10 am every day, meet their lovely herd of jersey cows and their calves. The attached café specialises in waffles, but you'll also find other food and drinks on offer.
Find more family-friendly fun in London
A restaurant in Farringdon promising a European menu.
Venue says: “Try some of our favourite brightly coloured cocktails and make sure you take advantage of our two-for-one happy hour; Mon-Fri, 4-8pm!”