Pocket Britain
Britain > London > Hackney > Spitalfields City Farm

The closest farm to London's centre


Farm Shop
Flower and Vegetable Gardens
Oxford and Cambridge Goat Race
Less than a mile from the glass and concrete of London's financial district is this oasis - 1.3 acres of farmland in the middle of the city. It brightens up one of the most deprived and densely-populated districts in the capital.
The farm was set up in 1978 by a group of volunteers from the local community. It became an official charity in 1980. Today, over three decades later, the core part of the workforce is still made up of volunteers.
The main entrance is occupied by a grassy garden, with space for picnics, and a fire pit for toasting marshmallows on warm nights. A little further on is the wildlife garden, where the plants are more dense. In spring there's a rainbow of colours, with bluebells, snowdrops and foxgloves all coming into bloom. In the vegetable garden, volunteers have been taught how to plant herbs and wildflowers among the veg, to ward off unwanted insects and encourage pollinating insects like bees and butterflies. Besides these designated areas, almost every other inch of space in Spitalfields Farm has something growing in it.
Living amongst the greenery are the farm animals themselves. Many of them have been here for years. Bayleaf the donkey, for example, is a well-loved, familiar face. He can be often spotted giving young children rides on his back, particularly at the Easter parades and summer fairs.
The other creatures are just as friendly. Teggan the sheep likes having her face rubbed, while Bentley the goat spends hours playing chase. Noise the goose is aptly named; he honks louder than a guard dog when anyone approaches. At the guinea pig village, children can pick up and play with the furry rodents. If you like, you can sponsor an animal, and contribute towards its food, housing and vetinary costs.
Inner city children don't often get the chance to meet animals, or to learn about ethical farming methods. Spitalfields offers a solution to those problems, with a wide-ranging programme of workshops and classes. There are arts and crafts lessons too. A newer project is the weekly eco-market. It doesn't just stock food, but crafts, clothes and recycled products too. During the week there's also a permanent farm shop, stocking compost, plants and merchandise. You can buy herbs and vegetables here, as well as chicken, duck and goose eggs. The latter, however, are usually in short supply, as the resident goose is very old!
Every year, on the same day as the traditional Oxford and Cambridge boat race, the farm hold an equally prestigious competition: the Oxford and Cambridge goat race! A representative is chosen for each university, and both participants have to amble their way round the track in as fast a time as they can be bothered. Goats, it should be said, aren't usually noted for their competitive spirit. Nevertheless, there's always a good-humoured atmosphere among the crowd, and plenty of other things to do on the day. The competition is now so popular that they have to sell tickets in advance, so plan ahead if you want to attend!
Visitor Information
Spitalfields City Farm is open Tuesday to Sunday (closed Mondays), 10am and 4pm. Entry is FREE. Buxton Street, London E1 5AR. Tel: 0207 247 8762

Back ~ Top ~ Home ~ Index

Pocket Britain is optimised for use on a smartphone or tablet with internet access. All content is subject to copyright. All reasonable methods have been used to ensure information supplied is accurate at the time of publication. However, it is advisable to check information before relying on it. Privacy Policy