Urban Escapes: London City Farms

London may be decked in concrete, steel and glass but it sure does well to cram bits of the countryside in every available nook and cranny of its vast and majestic.

So if you can’t escape to the countryside you can try and get a glimpse of it (and certainly a whiff) with some of the City Farms dotted around the capital. They are all free and really great for all ages but particularly younger children. Enjoy the weather with a picnic and some outdoor animal fun.

Hackney City Farm

Hackney City Farm is a stone’s throw away from the famous Columbia Road with its pretty and fragrant flower market, trendy graffiti and Broadway Market with its brigade of kale eating moustached hipsters (most likely sipping artisan coffee – La Bouche is a personal favourite). This little gem has a pottery studio and a garden and backs on to a park so the sheep can casually peruse skaters as they trick and trip. There’s also a very fancy Italian cafe/restaurant, Frizzante (meaning fizzy in Italian) which serves delicious (but somewhat overpriced) food – some of which comes from the farm (the eggs).

Hackney City Farm gives the community the opportunity to see where and how food is grown and to appreciate plants and animals – they have volunteering opportunities and fun activities with schools and visitors. They aim to be a centre for environmental improvement and a hub for projects in the local community.

Spitalfields City Farm

Skyscrapers loom over and peek within this former railway goods depot turned city farm located in Bethnal Green and closest to the city’s square mile. Spitalfields farm has a variety of animals including ferrets, bees, donkeys, goats, chicken and geese as well as parrots. Although the animals are the star attractions, there are also a variety of green spaces that people can enjoy and spring is a particularly beautiful time along the butterfly garden running along the perimeter of the farm which is normally very colourful and attracts a variety of insects to the party.

There’s a farm shop with produce and other merchandise and lots of fun activities for young and old alike.

Surrey Docks Farm

On a nice day you can amble down the Thames Path to this rural haven a few short steps away from Surrey Quays shopping centre.

As well as an impressive collection of animals (goats, sheep, pigs, cows, ferrets, rabbits and guinea pigs) they also have bees and great educational activities for children. Our favourite is the Piglets Club which teaches little Londoners where food comes from. Their sessions encourage children to explore their environment and get active with animals. Tasks at the sessions include filling up the duck’s water, letting the turkeys out, stroking and feeding the guinea pigs and rabbits, collecting the eggs, nature treasure hunts and food growing. They also have baby music classes for newborns and toddlers every Wednesday.

There is the Piccalili cafe on site which serves delicious food and they also have green spaces the children (and accompanying adults) can roam around.

Kentish town city farm

Now this one is a bit of a trendsetter as it proudly bears the title for the UK’s first city farm. Their animals benefit from a four acre site, alongside two railway lines in the inner London Borough of Camden. They have sheep, goats, ducks, chickens, geese, three horses, two donkeys, two pigs and a cow as well as animal pasture areas, community gardens, a wildlife pond and a riding arena (yes you can take little ones riding here!)

Kentish Town City Farm places children and young people at the heart of everything they do and they have a comprehensive educational programme throughout the year as well as availability for hire for birthday parties or other events. There’s an under 5s activity room and children and young people can learn to cook using freshly grown ingredients from the farm, there is a Saturday Club, children can learn to ride a Pony or a Donkey and they have lots of fun events during the holidays too.

Vauxhall City Farm

One of the oldest and most central city farms in London – Vauxhall City Farm does a lot with limited space and resources. Their animals are very much in the know when it comes to Brexit as they are so close to the Houses of Parliament and they all know how to tell the time courtesy of Big Ben. And there’s lots of cool animals like alpacas, aviary birds, rabbits, goats, horses, donkeys and farm cats. They offer a host of activities such as painted horse demos, a Saturday Young Farmers Club, Horse riding and spinning classes (with yarn from the on-site sheep).

As well as their animal themed activities and educational fun there is also an ecology garden with a bog, wormery and stag beetle nursery to get little ones into creepie crawlies. There is an on site allotment which grows a variety of fruit and veg which is used in the farm’s cookery workshops.

Mudchute Park and Farm

The largest London city farm with 32 acres of land is located minutes away from Canary Wharf and provides East London residents and visitors with a patch of the countryside in the city with green fields and glorious views.

The equestrian centre is at the heart of this farm and children can experience horse riding, show jumping or dressage within grassy (and sometimes muddy) fields. There’s an all weather riding arena, a petting zoo and a duck pond.

During the holidays there are a host of fun activities and events to keep the whole family busy from go-karting to weaving demonstrations and storytelling. Mudchute Kitchen is the on-site cafe which provides delicious home cooked food.

Top tip is to come by public transport as there is no on site parking available easiest access is from Crossharbour DLR station which is a ten minute walk from the main courtyard area. More info here.

Deen City Farm

Located in the Borough of Merton and close to Wimbledon, Deen City Farm teaches the local community about the rural environment, runs a friendly riding school and provides animal boarding so pets can have a mini-break when you do too.

They house alpacas, goats, various birds, as well as ducklings, chicks and lambs and for those that cannot make it to the farm they offer a mobile farm where they take some of their smaller animals on tour (they have visited schools, various fairs and shows within the M25 area.)

Freightliners City Farm

This newcomer on the City Farm scene manages to pack a lot into a small space behind Holloway Road in Islington. They may be small but they are ambitious and they have a wide array of animals, a petting zoo and even animal boarding for smaller pets.

Their onsite Strawbale Cafe offers fresh homemade food (with ingredients from the site) at reasonable prices and it is located in a volunteer built eco house.

Freighleiners has a variety of community volunteering options and educational activities for families throughout term-time and during the holidays too.

Stepney City Farm

Stepney City Farm is a three acre working farm in the heart of Tower Hamlets. It offers children and adults a green oasis and a chance to meet farm animals, learn how to grow food and try out arts and crafts at The Rural Arts Centre.

Every Saturday there is a Farmers Market where you can find organic vegetables, fruit, bread, cheeses, meat, fish, cakes, eggs, olives and preserves as well as oils and juices. Many of the rural artists can also be found selling pottery, textiles and carvings hand-made on the farm.

There are a variety of events at the farm from courses for adults through to fun activities for kids during term time and the holidays.

Brooks Farm

Brooks Farm is part of Capel Manor College and has been a staple of community life in Leyton for over 20 years. Young People attending the college can study a variety of land based courses including: Animal Care, Dog Grooming, Horticulture, Arboriculture, Countryside Management, Garden Design, Royal Horticultural Society Courses, Environmental Conservation, Outdoor Adventure, Saddlery and Leatherwork.

Visitors to the farm can get up close to the animals including sheep, donkeys, ponies, rabbits and hens.

Woodlands Farm Trust

This 89 acre woodlands farm trust is run entirely by volunteers gives families the possibility to experience life on a working farm yard and learn about native bird species, butterflies, wild flowers and the woodland.

Their events are very much family friendly including interactive storytelling, wild art sessions and mini beasts hunts. In the spring there is a lambing event where families can meet curly balls of fluff, feed them and get supers instagrammable pics.

Newham City Farm

One of London’s oldest and largest city farms, Newham City Farm has a play area for toddlers with ride-on toys and a recently built covered outdoor learning space that doubles up as a picnic area.

As well as the usual fare of farmyard animals (cows, horses and sheep) there’s also some less familiar animals such as alpacas, birds of prey and turkeys. There are also many smaller animals such as rabbits, guinea pigs and ferrets.

The farm hold very popular clubs usually at weekends where young people can find out about day-to-day life on the farm and learn some new skills and get some practical experience of farm life!