Friday, 12 October 2007

Down on the farm

A cold, rainy day in September might not seem the best day for a visit to a country farm, but I wasn't going to let that deter me. It was my birthday and I wanted to see donkeys and that was the end to it. So equipped with waterproofs, walking boots and warm clothing, my partner and I headed off to Mudchute Farm and Park.

Animal farm: The park was originally a piece of derelict land created during the last century from the spoil from the construction of Millwall Dock

We had planned to walk there, the farm isn't far from our Greenwich abode and had the day been nice it would have been a lovely walk. But the rain gods weren't in an agreeable mood, so we jumped in the car. Luckily, unlike many places in London, the farm is easily accessible by road and there is plenty of parking, albeit the pay-and-display variety. The local Asda has a large carpark with a minimal cost to non-shoppers, there's even a gate into the farm from the grounds. Or you could combine your trip with the weekly shop and get the parking for free.

The park was established in the 1970s when the Greater London Council earmarked the area, which had previously remained untouched, for development. The resulting public campaign secured the site as a people's park for the area. In 1977 the Mudchute Association was formed to preserve and develop the area. Farm animals and horses were introduced and the area has become a haven of greenery in the city. It's free to get in, but as a registered charity, if you do visit please do keep in mind that they rely on donations.

The park is set in 31 acres of land, tended by a small team of professionals and a large number of dedicated volunteers. Once you get over the strange juxtapostion of this bit of countryside with Canary Wharf looming in the background, it is lovely walking around the park, even on a wet day. Although I would definitely recommend walking boots - by the time we had walked round there was so much mud clinging to our boots that my partner and I could have made our own mini-park. There's also plenty to see. There were a couple of llamas, looking regal and disdainful despite the rain, sheep, donkeys, a very vocal cow (I think she must have been demanding her lunch or maybe complaining loudly about the weather), some goats huddled in their hut, geese, chickens, a turkey and even rabbits and guinea pigs. There's an equestrian centre where the farm offers riding lessons and families should pop into the education centre.

Llondon llamas:
Apparently they're happy to keep you company during picnics, but probably not in the rain

On a warm day, it would be the perfect place for a picnic. For the lazy among us (myself included) and those who don't trust the English weather, there's Mudchute Kitchen, which serves breakfasts, lunches, snacks and afternoon teas. The cafe is ideal for families, with its play area for kids, high chairs and cheap meals. It was a runner-up in this year's Time Out Eating and Drinking Awards, Best Family Restaurant.

In fact, they've thought of everything. Except maybe a petting farm. I would love to stroke a few donkeys' and goats' heads, and it would be fantastic during lambing season. And I'm sure kids would agree.

Heavy petting: It would be great to be able to get our hands on the animals

Mudchute Park and Farm

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