There’s usually a barn or cafe open to duck into if the weather turns really grim. Lambing season is also on the horizon, which is the truly magical time to visit; little bundles of fluff jump around fields and you might even get the chance to feed one yourself.
As well as being fun, city and country farms teach our children about the food supply chain, about the importance of animal welfare, and about rare breeds. They’re excellent places to become regulars at, with pony rides, farm clubs and art sessions to drop into. All the places we’ve included here are free to enter, but there may be additional charges for soft play areas, craft sessions or other activities.
OLD HOLLY FARM
This working, organic dairy farm (pictured above) in Lancashire is a wonderful place to visit at any time of year; kids can pet the animals, and there’s a cafe that serves home-made cake and thick ham sandwiches with piccalilly. It’s all free except for the soft play, but, at £4 for two hours, even that is reasonably priced. The farm is small, so suits younger children, who will love snuggling the rabbits and chicks and cooing over the reindeer who are there at Christmas. Don’t leave without buying some fresh milk and a few tubs of Coolcow ice-cream, which is made using organic milk from the farm, and comes in 22 flavours! oldhollyfarm.com
SWANSEA COMMUNITY FARM
The only city farm in Wales, this tiny gem (it’s only 3.5 acres) of a working farm packs a lot of animals into its small footprint. The farm was recently under threat financially, but, thanks to a mystery contributor (dubbed ‘Secret Santa’) they are positive about the future. Which is great news, as it’s an essential place for Swansea’s children. There are pigs that snore loudly, a duck pond, a small orchard, bee hives and lambs. We love going into the barns and watching the eggs and chicks in the hatcheries, and there’s even a really fun, recycled materials play area tucked in under the trees. swanseacommunityfarm.org.uk
WOODLANDS FARM TRUST
Just a chicken flutter from London, the Woodlands Farm Trust in Bexley is a surprise; tucked away behind tall hedges and gates are 89 acres of farm, nature reserves, and ancient forest. There are fields of cattle and sheep, pigs and ponies. Time your visit to coincide with one of their special events; Lambing Day is particularly fun, with a chance to see the wobbly newborns, craft activities and a food market. Other activities include bird-watching walks, and fun things to do through the school holidays such as pond dipping and mini beast safaris. thewoodlandsfarmtrust.org
Situated on a huge-for-London, 32-acre site with iconic views of Canary Wharf and the city, Mudchute Farm feels luxuriantly spacious for a city farm; big enough meadows to run around in and large paddocks with alpaca, donkeys and long-horned sheep. Pigs grunt and snuffle in the mud, and ponies have space to gallop, while little kids will love the petting area, full of cute, cuddly animals. It’s big enough to spend all day there – take a picnic and breathe in lungfuls of fresh air and run around the huge paddocks. There’s a large café, farm store, and, a traditional Cockney fish shop, where you can buy fresh jellied eels, cockles, prawns and whelks. mudchute.org
BILL QUAY COMMUNITY FARM
Beloved by the people of Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, Bill Quay is a working farm that is home to pigs, sheep, goats and ponies, plus chinchillas, degus, guinea pigs and fancy mice. They have breeding groups of rare breed animals, including Tamworth pigs, that are being edged out of modern methods of agricultural production. There’s an exciting adventure playground, and stunning views of the river from the fields. The farm is a community hub, hosting farm club and pony grooming events for kids in the school holidays, bike maintenance workshops, and regular weekend arts and crafts sessions. Look out for bigger events, such as Halloween and May Day parties when you might get to roast marshmallows in the woods, learn to Maypole dance, or watch pig racing. billquayfarm.org.uk