You don’t have to hoof it to the countryside to spot a sheep—well over a dozen urban farms are dotted across London, many of them free to visit (though donations are, of course, mooo-re than welcome).
Most have petting and/or feeding times, and it’s worth checking the websites for occasional events, especially over the Easter weekend, such as pony rides or sheep shearing. So let the kids feed a gobbling goat or stroke a fluffy bunny at one of these farms in the city.
Stepney City Farm
Where: Stepney Way, E1 3DG
What: Sheep and goats, guinea pigs and regular pigs, plus a Saturday farmers’ market and the Rural Arts Centre, where you can see potters and woodworkers plying their craft.
Where: Skeltons Lane Park, Leyton, E10 5BS
What: Part of Capel Manor College (which teaches animal care, horticulture, dog grooming, environmental conservation, saddlery and leatherwork, among other courses), Brooks Farm offers learning activities along with the traditional sheep, donkeys, goats and rabbits. Read The MotherHood’s review of Brooks Farm here.
Hackney City Farm
Where: 1a Goldsmiths Row, E2 8QA
What: Meet pigs Pepper and Pearl, donkeys Larry and Clover, Gabe the gander and new kids on the block Romeo and Hamlet (born at the end of February). In the shop you can buy freshly laid eggs as well as honey from the farm’s bees.
Mudchute Farm and Park
Where: Pier Street, Isle of Dogs, E14 3HP
What: Over a hundred animals, including British rare breeds, live at Mudchute; if you’d like to get up close and personal you can book a tour. There’s also a riding school at the farm’s equestrian centre.
Newham City Farm
Where: King George Avenue, E16 3HR (main entrance in Stansfeld Road)
What: Cows, horses and sheep, plus alpacas, rabbits and ferrets. And along with farm-fresh eggs and honey at the shop, you can also buy, er, manure.
Spitalfields City Farm
Where: Buxton Street, E1 5AR
What: Meet Bayleaf the donkey and Hamish the pygmy goat at the city farm that’s nearest to the Square Mile. On Saturdays its Wild Club also offers free nature-themed activities for 4- to 12-year-olds.
Wellgate Community Farm
Where: Collier Row Road, Romford, Essex, RM5 2BH
What: Jesse the Jersey cow and Dingle the Shetland pony share the farm with geese and sheep, goats and guinea pigs. The ‘Spring Babies Weekend’ runs on the 29th and 30th of April and includes farm demonstrations and an egg hunt.
Aldenham Country Park
Where: Aldenham Road, Elstree, Radlett, Borehamwood, WD6 3BA
Cost: £3.50 child | £4 adult
What: Alpacas and rabbits, guinea pigs and goats: all the farm favourites are here. You can also feed and pet the animals, and collect eggs as well (for a fee, but you do get to bring home your farm-fresh eggs).
Where: Lincolnsfields Children’s Centre, Bushey Hall Drive, Bushey, Hertfordshire, WD23 2ES
Cost: £2/£4/£6.50 child (under 2/up to 4/from 5 to 14) | £7 adult
What: A small farm with miniature goats, micro pigs and wee Shetland ponies, plus full-size turkeys, chickens, peacocks and so on.
Hounslow Urban Farm
Where: Faggs Road, Feltham, Middlesex, TW14 0LZ
Cost: £6 child | £7.50 adult (under 2s free)
What: Animal encounters, pig meet and greet, and owl displays are all on offer at this site a stone’s throw from Heathrow. From cuddly chicks to bearded dragons, micro pigs to big goats, with less-common critters such as blue-tongue skink and boa constrictors to gape at as well. Check out The MotherHood’s review of Hounslow Urban Farm.
Freightliners City Farm
Where: Sheringham Road, Islington, N7 8PF
What: When Freightliners Farm was founded in 1973, it was first located behind King’s Cross station, with the animals housed in railway goods vans—hence the name. Today cattle, chickens, quail and sheep can all be found in the heart of Islington.
Belmont Children’s Farm
Where: The Ridgeway, Mill Hill, NW7 1QT
Cost: £4 for 18 months to 3 years/£5 for ages 3 to 12 | £7 adult
What: Meet and feed more than 30 kinds of animals, and hop on a tractor-trailer ride around the estate.
Forty Hall Farm
Where: Bullsmoor Lane, Enfield, EN1 4RQ
Another outpost of Capel Manor College (see Brooks Farm above and Crystal Palace Park Farm below), organic Forty Hall Farm is tucked just inside the M25. This Easter weekend they’ll be open all four days to show off their lambs and a new calf. They’re also holding their first village fête on the 7th of May.
Kentish Town City Farm
Where: 1 Cressfield Close, NW5 4BN
What: The farm’s 50 animals include horses and chickens, a pig and a cow, and this Easter weekend they’ll host pony rides, egg blowing and a treasure hunt (£3 each; check website for dates and times).
Deen City Farm & Riding School
Where: 39 Windsor Avenue, Merton Abbey, Merton, SW19 2RR
What: Some 200 animals call Deen City Farm home, including Kimby the alpaca, Edna the barn owl and Iggy the pony, plus ferrets, pigs and bunnies. The farm is a hop away from the National Trust’s Morden Hall Park, which is also free to enter and which has an egg hunt and basket making over the Easter weekend.
Crystal Palace Park Farm
Where: Ledrington Road, SE19 2BS
What: A little farm not far from the dinosaurs (and, like Brooks Farm and Forty Hall Farm above, part of Capel Manor College), you’ll spy pigs and chinchillas, parakeets and ponies.
Surrey Docks Farm
Where: Rotherhithe Street, Southwark, SE16 5ET
What: Just off the Thames path you’ll find Herbie the bullock (a castrated bull) plus all the usual suspects, from ferrets to ponies.
Vauxhall City Farm
Where: 165 Tyers Street, SE11 5HS
What: Trevor the turkey, Fudge the guinea pig, Jemima the ferret and Waffle the goose are waiting to meet you at this farm near Vauxhall station. Easter events include crafts and a cuddle corner. Riding lessons are also available on ponies or horses.
Where: 331 Shooters Hill, Welling, Kent, DA16 3RP
What: Did you know Shetland ponies can pull twice their own weight, or that Manx Loaghtan sheep can have four or even six horns? See these specimens and more at this city farm the size of 50 football fields.