THE BEST PICK YOUR OWN FARMS IN AND AROUND LONDON
By Jodi Bartle
Visiting a ‘pick your own’ farm is an excellent way to teach your kids about sustainability.
Sometimes, living in London town, nose-to-armpit close to other people all the time and slaves to fluorescent-lit supermarkets filled with wilting fruit and vegetables wrapped in plastic, you’d be forgiven for forgetting that we live in a bountiful, fertile country.
An excellent antidote for city-fatigue is to step outside of the London postcodes, hop onto a motorway or get on to a train and make your way to a pick your own farm. Why not turn picking your own fruit and veg into a day trip? All our suggestions can easily be covered in a day.
There are a few farms to choose from, both within and just out of London. Most fruit picking farms work on crop availability so produce depends on seasons, giving you an excellent opportunity to speak to the kids about seasonality.
There are usually rules regarding picking - no eating the strawberries and raspberries before they are weighed and there may be a minimum spend. Dogs are often allowed but in restricted areas.
It is always best to check the farm websites to make sure you know what will be available to pick and to check when they are open.
We’ve been going to Crockford Bridge Farm for years as a weekend day out - it’s only a 45 minute drive from central London, and when you get there, there is more than enough for everyone to do both in winter and in the rain.
Located next to a Garden Centre with a small indoor soft play centre, cafe and restaurant, an aquarium, farm shop, butcher and toy shop, the PYO farm is set up with pop-up food trucks in summer with an ice cream parlour and a lovely playground area with a zip wire and playhouse for the kids.
Crockford Bridge Farm also hosts woodland interactive theatre performances in the edge of the farm forest at Easter, Halloween and Christmas which is put on by the owner’s daughter and her friends.
There is fruit and vegetables to pick at various times all year round; we go before Halloween to pick our pumpkins, at Christmas to meet a wood cabin-dwelling Santa, and at Easter, as well as all those weekends where you crave a bit of play in the grass and some fresh, sun warmed berries.
There’s rhubarb, swiss chard broad beans and runner beans galore. All of our kids get involved - we bring bags of berries home and freeze them for smoothies.
It’s not necessarily cheap but it is reasonable; going to Crockford Bridge is a highlight of our family calendar.
A farm since 1871, Garsons is an award-winning family-run Garden Centre and Farm Shop operating in both Surrey and Hampshire. There are 30 crops totalling 75 different varieties which includes soft fruits, courgettes and peas and seasonal sunflowers and dahlias.
The Pick Your Own Farm at Garsons Esher is open all week during peak season of July and August, and the picking season in general runs from June until October.
For adults, there is a £4 minimum spend charged on entry which is refunded against the total bill with a ‘weigh & pay’ system at the exit.
Crops and fruit picking available to pick can change on an hourly basis so you are encouraged to check ahead via Garson’s website.
Stanhill Farm comprises 150 acres managed by brothers, and is located only 17 miles from London. The farm harvests wheat and between 30-40 different fruits and vegetables each year. We particularly enjoy raspberry and strawberry picking here.
Alongside the Pick Your Own, Stanhill Farm operates a produce delivery box scheme, and there’s a farm shop onsite which is stocked full of produce from the farm, neighbouring farms and others bought back from Spitalfields market which sells local cheeses, fresh bread and free range eggs.
Updates regarding crop availability can be found on the farm’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages.
There is no charge to enter; you pay by weight at the hut before leaving. Sampling the fruit is limited to one or two but everything else must be paid for.
Parking is available, picnics are encouraged at the picnic tables provided and there is a cafe onsite between 10:30am and 5:30pm.
This PYO farm is the place to head if you are northerly located and in need of fresh strawberries, raspberries, blackberry, blackcurrants or redcurrants.
Roughly half an hour’s walk from Gordon Hill station, this farm operates a £4 minimum spend on picked fruits and vegetables.
Bring a picnic for lunch - there’s a small area set aside for hungry day-trippers, while the farm shop sells ice cream and cold drinks.
You’ll find a farm shop, butchers, tea room, and brewery at the Flower Farm - the produce at the PYO farm is ripe for picking between June and August.
Check with the farm before travelling out to make sure there is enough crop availability.
Strawberries, blackcurrants and plums are bountiful at Maynards Fruit which is located midway between Tunbridge Wells in Kent and Hastings on the East Sussex coast.
Make a day of it and get to the seaside but not before you fill up your bags with Maynards blackcurrants which, incidentally, form the base of Ribena’s classic drinks.
Combining a farm shop, tea room and summer maize maze, New House Farm Shop has a PYO offering for strawberries and raspberries.
Aim to bring home a basketful of asparagus, strawberries, rhubarb and swiss chard from this 150 acre property located between Guildford and Farnham.
The farm shop sells craft beers, gins and English wines as well as meat and vegetables.
This is a cash-only PYO farm, located just inside London city limits.
There might well be gooseberries, red and black currants, spinach and peas on offer alongside your garden-variety strawberries (see what we did there?), depending on crop availability.
When you’re done filling your car boot with raspberries, strawberries and cherries, try the well-regarded coffee and cake at the Bee Shed Coffee House next door to Lathcoats Farm.
Where’s your favourite pick your own farm in or outside London?