Inside Spitalfields City Farm: A Green Oasis in the Big Smoke
If you’re looking for a city break, then London is the perfect destination to descend to. Buzzing with activity all year round, the big smoke offers the perfect fast-paced city experience, with so much to do and see. However, what makes London stand out from other metropolises is the great selection of green spaces located a stone’s throw away from skyscrapers in the city. Spitalfields City Farm is one such place, a green oasis where you can escape the noise and into nature. So we sent Willie behind the scenes to find out what has made this farm a favourite amongst people from London and afar.
Imagine that you’re standing in the centre of London surrounded by concrete, steel and smoke. All of a sudden you look to your left and what’s that? Yes, a drove of donkeys frolicking through the pasture. Located in the heart of East London, visitors to Spitalfields City Farm are treated to a bonanza of barnyard animals, wildflower gardens and community vegetable patches.
Where is Spitalfields City Farm?
The farm is located on Buxton Street in the borough of Tower Hamlets, just down the street from the famous Brick Lane. It’s an ideal location for those making the voyage east. Just an 8 minutes walk from Bethnal Green and Shoreditch High Street, a 15-minute trot from Aldgate East and 20 minutes from Liverpool Street Station on the edge of ‘the city’. Spitalfields City Farm’s proximity to London’s enclave of financial skyscrapers makes it such an astoundingly surreal experience.
The History of the Farm
Cast your mind back to Victorian England, Oliver Twist and Charles Dickens. The rapid industrialization of Great Britain during the 19th century decimated agricultural land. Forcing millions of rural residents into cramped and crowded cities.
Then came the First World War with its accompanying social ill of mass starvation as veterans poured home withered and weary from combat. In response to these desperate trends, a series of “Allotment Acts” were passed at the beginning of the 20th century in order to reserve space for community-based agriculture. These allotments had their heyday in the 1940s and ’50s, but have been threatened by over development thereafter.
Spitalfields City Farm owes itself to the legacy of these allotments. Back in 1978 local residents opened the farm once developers began encroaching on land previously reserved for community farming. While gentrification and behemoth buildings have shot up like weeds in the vicinity, Spitalfields City Farm has remained a beloved enclave of peace and tranquillity in the midst of the encroaching chaos.
The farm is home to a plethora of fascinating animals including geese, sheep, chickens, pigs, cats, goats, rabbits, ferrets and donkeys, as well as a miniature Shetland pony.
There’s an aviary on-site with a whole host of exotic fliers as well as a so-called ‘bug hotel’ and some Guinea pigs too. The stars of the show are the two hairy kunekune pigs aptly named Watson and Holmes – for their intellect – and the beautiful white Donkey who goes by Bayleaf. He may very well be the most handsome donkey in the world.
The atmosphere of the city farm would be nothing without its tremendous green space. There are several wildflower gardens with a lovely mixture of flowers and wild vegetables including exotic blends like “7th-century French wheat”.
Volunteers are welcomed to the Wildlife Garden which bursts into life come the spring with bluebells, snowdrops, foxgloves, violets and wild strawberries exploding into bloom.
There are additional allocations for vegetable plots where you can learn the benefits of raising your own edible greens.
When to go?
The farm is closed on Monday, but is open every other day of the week, between 10 AM and 4 PM (4:30PM in the Spring and Summer). The farm also has a shop on-site, open from Tuesdays to Thursdays where you can buy a variety of freshly grown, organic products. There are events on all year including an annual goat race and you can visit Santa in his “Grotto at the farm” on the 21st and the 22nd of December. Please keep in mind that Spitalfields City Farm will be closed for a winter break from the 23rd until the 7th of January.
So if you fancy taking a break from the hustle and bustle of the city, then be sure to check out Spitalfields City Farm. A great place for an afternoon stroll, and especially if you have younger siblings or children you need to keep entertained. Oh and if you’re looking for some more awesome spots to check out whilst you’re in London, download the Like Locals app now. Available on both iOS and Android devices.