FUN DAY DATE
There’s something both traditional and modern about Pick Your Own (PYO) farms.
These working farms, where you pick fresh fruit and veg and then pay at the farm shop, hold nostalgic memories for many of us, harking back to the time when holidays meant trips to the seaside. Once there were thousands of them in the UK, but now there are only a few hundred — yet they’re currently enjoying a resurgence.
With the rise of urban gardening, they appeal to the modern Londoner who likes to know where his/her food comes from, is concerned about air miles, and seeks out local, seasonal produce packed with higher nutritional value.
When the sun is high, nothing beats being out and about in fresh air, feeling connected with nature by picking summer fruit and veg in a wide, open field.
Warning: most of these involve day trips out of London proper and necessitate the use of a car or taxi. We have attempted to provide public transport options as much as possible from central London. Good luck!
Parkside Farm, Enfield
This award-winning 50-acre farm grows more than 20 different crops, and is one of only a few PYO farms we could find within the M25. The season opens in June and over the summer they have ‘table top’ strawberries (so you can pick them without bending down) as well as ones grown on the ground. They also have spinach, swiss chard and a great deal of beetroot; raspberries, redcurrants, french beans and courgettes. Refer to the handy crop calendar on the website to see what’s available during your visit. There’s a minimum spend of £4 per person.
How to get there: train from Finsbury Park to Gordon Hill and the farm is one mile away, take the tube to Cockfosters and it’s three miles away.
McLauchlans of Boxted, near Colchester
Specialising in summer berries, this long-established farm is open for PYO from early June depending on the weather. Earlier on in the season they have strawberries, cheaper jam strawberries, gooseberries and broad beans. Raspberries, dessert gooseberries, blackcurrants and sweetcorn are also on offer later in the summer.
How to get there: the train from Liverpool Street to Colchester takes about an hour then you can catch the village bus service to take you to Boxted.
Cammas Hall Fruit Farm, near Bishops Stortford
Owned by the Lukies family for around 130 years and located on the Hertfordshire/Essex borders, this farm was one of the pioneering PYOs in the 1960s. Perfect for a great day out for all the family, it has a farm shop, children’s play area and tea barn with plenty of indoor and outdoor seating. The farm opens around Easter although the first PYO produce doesn’t usually appear until late May, when you can expect to see lots of strawberries grown on tabletops, gooseberries and raspberries. Onions and pumpkins will make an appearance around September/October.
How to get there: trains from Liverpool Street to Bishops Stortford take betwen 40-50 minutes, then you catch the Village Link 5 bus to Hatfield Broad Oak and walk, or just get a cab from the station — it’s a 15-minute drive to the farm.
Hawkswick Lodge Farm, St Albans
Open June to August, this farm offers strawberries, gooseberries, blackberries and redcurrants. There’s a minimum charge of £2.50 per adult and 50p per child aged 5+.
How to get there: train from St Pancras to St Albans takes 20-30 minutes, then catch the 321 bus up Harpenden Road to Hawkswick stop.
Graveley Fruit Farms, Hitchin
Located amid beautiful countryside, this family-friendly farm boasts a children’s adventure playground, tractor and trailer rides, pet pigs for feeding, café and car boots sales (the car boot site is also a hot air balloon takeoff point!). Fruit is grown in polytunnels using the ‘table top’ system. You can pick strawberries, raspberries and blackcurrants. Entrance is free.
How to get there: train from Kings Cross to Hitchin takes up to 45 minutes, then take a taxi. There are local buses but they’d still involve a walk alongside bus A-roads at the end.
Pearce’s Farmshop & Café, Buntingford
Owned by the Pearce family, this farm is open for PYO from May/June to October. Different varieties of strawberries that ripen at different times are grown using the ‘table top’ method, and raspberries are also available for picking. The farm’s café utilises these fruits on its dessert menu.
How to get there: the train from Finsbury Park to Hertford North takes about 35 minutes, then walk to the bus station and take the 331 bus north up the A10.
Grove Farm, Leighton Buzzard
This 80-acre farm grows more than 30 different crops, which you can pick and take home between mid-June and mid-October. You can take your own picnic — plenty of picnic tables are available except at very busy times, when staff will advise you on nearby picnic spots.
How to get there: trains from Euston to Leighton Buzzard take up to 50 minutes and then you can get a minicab for the 15-minute drive to the farm.
Copas Farms, Iver
There are separate fruit festival days here if you simply want to go along to eat as much freshly picked fruit as you can stomach – these cost £6 for adults and £4 for children. For picking your own to take home, the season begins with asparagus in May and ends in September with sweetcorn. In the intervening months you’ll find broad beans, strawberries, spinach, rhubarb, gooseberries and beetroot — the farm may close early if they run out. There’s a minimum charge of £3 per person, but it’s offset against purchase. There’s also another Copas PYO Farm at Cookham in Berkshire.
How to get there: train from Paddington to Iver takes 20 minutes, then cab it to the farm.
Millets Farm Centre, Frilford
Open June to September, this 50-acre farm has more than 30 types of fruits and vegetables, including traditional, old-fashioned varieties. On site there’s a farm shop, garden centre, café, restaurants, woodland, children’s playground, zoo and much more. Available for picking are strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries, blackcurrants and redcurrants at an entry cost of £2 per person (redeemable against any fruit purchased).
How to get there: train from Paddington to Didcot Parkway. If you can get to Abingdon or Wantage there’s a free bus service on a Tuesday. Otherwise, get a cab, shouldn’t be more than 15 minutes.
Grays Farm, Wokingham
Run by three generations of the Gray family, this award-winning farm is open for PYO from the end of May to early October. There are strawberries, gooseberries, raspberries, cabbages, cauliflowers, spinach, broad beans, broccoli, courgettes and marrows available to pick with no entry charge.
How to get there: train from Waterloo to Wokingham is 50 minutes, then you’ll need a mini cab.
Cobbs Farm Shop & Kitchen,
A destination for food lovers, this 55-acre farm has a recently planted a five-acre vineyard, café, deli, butcher, fishmonger and florist, and runs seasonal events throughout the year. There’s a new play barn too. Plenty of soft fruits and seasonal vegetables are on the farm during summer, all sold by weight.
How to get there: train from Paddington to Hungerford is about one hour. The website says the farm is a minute’s drive along the A4 but we can’t work out the buses so get a cab.
Sprawled over 150 acres, this slickly run farm claims to be UK’s largest PYO. You can harvest different varieties of over 30 types of fruits, vegetables and flowers between May to October. There’s a wide choice at the moment, including strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, gooseberries, beetroot, broad beans, broccoli, carrots, cabbages, cauliflowers, courgettes, spinach, mange tout and sugar snap peas. Also on site are a restaurant and award-winning farm shop and garden centre; and the company also owns another farm at Titchfield in Hampshire.
How to get there: a train from Waterloo to Esher takes about 30 mins. You can walk to Garsons in 40 mins or get a minicab.
It’s no secret that Secretts is one of the best-known farms in the UK. It grows a huge range of fruit, veg, salad leaves and micro-shoots — many of them rare or unusual — on its enormous 150-acre site. It supplies to supermarkets, greengrocers, farm shops, health food shops and restaurants. There’s a lot going on at the farm, including farm shop, garden centre, gardening school, restaurant, butcher, vintage tea room and florist. As you go past open fields, idyllic lakes and wildfowl, there’s plenty available for picking including broad beans, asparagus, chard, peas, rhubarb, strawberries and gooseberries. Later in the season we’ll see raspberries, plums and sweetcorn. PYO is open on either part-time or full-time basis between April to October.
How to get there: a train from Waterloo to Milford takes 50ish minutes and you can probably walk it from there.
Avalon Garden Centre, Churt Farnham
It’s rare to find a PYO that offers blueberries in the UK, but this friendly farm has been growing them for 30 years, long before supermarkets started promoting them as ‘superfood’. They’re available from July until mid-October, depending on the weather, alongside strawberries.
How to get there: a train from Waterloo to Farnham takes about an hour but you’ll definitely need a cab. In fact, it’s probably more sensible to drive to this one.
Flower Farm Shop, Godstone
Situated in the stunning North Downs in the heart of Surrey, this PYO is open from June until the end of August. It comprises farm shop, traditional butcher, vineyard and tearoom. Strawberries (£3.95/kg) are currently ready, and raspberries will become available in July. The owners’ second farm, Heathfield Farm in Croydon, has now closed.
How to get there: get a train from Victoria to Caterham and it’ll take you about 50 minutes. Then take the 400 or 509 bus to Godstone Village.
Crockford Bridge Farm Shop & Pick Your Own, Weybridge
Located close to London, this friendly farm houses ice cream parlour, coffee shop, farm shop and garden centre. Over 20 different crops grow here between May-September; and current availability includes strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries, rhubarb and spinach. The farm hosts festive events at Halloween and Christmas, and even gives you a rare opportunity to ‘dig your own’ Christmas tree.
How to get there: get the train from Waterloo to Weybridge in about 30 minutes. Then get a cab, it’s not far.
Grange Farm Shop, near Chichester
Located in the pretty village of Funtington in the south of the Downs, this farm is home to a highly acclaimed farm shop. Available for picking are strawberries, gooseberries, raspberries, redcurrants and blackcurrants. If the weather is bad or the crops are not ready, they may have to close the orchard on certain days.
How to get there: it’s an hour and half on the train from Victoria to Chichester then five miles to the shop, so probably best to cab it.
Roundstone Farm, near Worthing
Open from end of May to end of September, this farm certainly makes life easy by providing tractor trains to access the crops. Ready for picking towards the start of the season are strawberries, rhubarb, broad beans, a few onions, carrots, beetroot, and pink and white kohlrabi. Broccoli and cabbages (savoy, red and primo) arrive later. Running parallel to the PYO season are car boot sales on Sundays.
How to get there: get a train from Victoria to Goring-by-Sea or Angmering-by-Sea (takes a while but very pretty) and take the 20 minute walk.
Maynards Pick Your Own Fruit, Wadhurst
Not to be confused with Maynards Farm in Shrewsbury, this lovely PYO is open from around mid to late June — the start of the strawberry season — through to late September. Summer favourites such as gooseberries and cherries are available alongside the strawberries if the weather has’t been too wet, and raspberries come up a few weeks later. Maynards is one of the few farms to grow tayberries, tummelberries and loganberries, which will be in season next. They also make their very own ice cream.
How to get there: a train from Charing Cross to Wadhurst takes about an hour. Then it’s a reasonable woody walk or a short cab ride.
Sharnfold Farm & Shop, near Eastbourne
Tayberries are also available at this fun, friendly farm, along with strawberries and gooseberries. Entry is free, but you pay for the produce and prices vary regularly according to availability. PYO is open from April to end of September/early October; and other highlights include farm shop, coffee shop, children’s play area, fishing, farm trails and various events throughout the year, from Easter egg hunt to pumpkin carving.
How to get there: the train from Victoria to Eastbourne takes an hour and half. Then catch the Stagecoach 1A bus heading for Hailsham.
Stonehill Farm, Horam
Owned by the McKay family, this PYO currently has some of the most delicious ‘table top’ strawberries around, as well as raspberries and gooseberries. They’ve just introduced home-made jams in their farm shop; and are growing boysenberries for future. Try some of their freshly squeezed fruit juice whenever available too — it’s delicious.
How to get there: tricky. Try a train to Stonegate from Charing Cross and a cab. Although we’re open to better options, readers.
Stanhill Farm, Dartford
Located just 17 miles from central London, this large 150-acre farm harvests around 20-30 types of fruit and veg each year. It’s owned by brothers Toby and Max Williams, who developed it from a farm that once supplied to a supermarket, to one that focuses on the wholesale market and PYO. You can pick strawberries, gooseberries, raspberries, blackberries and currants. There’s an acclaimed farm shop, vegetable box scheme, and they recently introduced the popular Maize Maze. PYO is open from around end of May/beginning of June until October.
How to get there: take a train to Bexley from Charing Cross and then it’s a 10 minute taxi ride.
Hewitts Farm, near Orpington
Set amid 78 acres, this family-run farm is open as a PYO from June to October. Early on in the season they’re often open intermittently with strawberries, gooseberries and spinach ready to pick; but will throw open their doors more regularly from the end of June/early July. Phone to check the hours, availability and prices — which are not listed on the website as they fluctuate according to the produce’s scarcity or glut. Also on site are farm shop, car boot sales, large picnic area and unique furniture and gifts hand-made from the farm’s own-grown wood.
How to get there: take a train from Victoria to Knockholt (requires a change at Orpington) — takes about 50 minutes. It’s an easy walk from there on a public footpath.
Foxendown Fruit Farm, Meopham
This is a small family business that owns two farms, Foxendown and nearby Broomfield, located in the charming village of Meopham in the North Downs, near Dartford Crossing. PYO is open from June to mid-September. Ripe for picking during the summer are new-season strawberries, early raspberries, blackberries and gooseberries. A variety of apples, pears and plums come to fruit in the autumn and prices may drop as more produce becomes available.
How to get there: take a train from St Pancras International to Gravesend, in about 25 mins then hop in a taxi