For a city so humungous and busy as London, it’s really quite cool that there are so many pockets of greenery and wildlife. From the large Royal Parks such as Greenwich Park to the garden squares to the nature reserve at Camley Street and the Skip Garden both in King’s Cross. There are also several city farms and recently we had a mooch around Hackney City Farm and stayed for brunch too (we’ve already been to Surrey Quays and Mudchute Farms).
A couple of times a year we have a ‘big’ day out at one of the adventure farms that are dotted around the M25. These are great fun but pretty full on and tiring. Back in the spring we realised we hadn’t seen any baby farm animals yet but couldn’t face a big farm trip so jumped in the car one Sunday morning and drove down the A10 to Hackney. There is no parking at the farm (it’s half a mile from both Hoxton and Cambridge Heath Overground stations or a mile from Bethnal Green tube station) but on Sundays you can park in the surrounding streets.
For 30 years, Hackney City Farm has offered the local community the opportunity to experience farming in London’s east end, by offering a range of workshops, volunteering sessions, social enterprises and community groups. On Saturday mornings there is a Mini Farmers Club aimed at children aged 8-17 years old. The sessions teach children about nature and allow them to get to know the animals under the careful supervision of our livestock worker. During term time, the farm runs children’s pottery sessions and hosts a baby music class.
The farm is small but there is enough going on to keep a toddler and preschooler (and their grown-ups) amused for about an hour. Imogen loved following the chickens and rooster around the farmyard and both girls loved seeing the two new baby lambs, who were a bit shy. We also saw pigs, rabbits and geese in and around the courtyard and more pigs, donkeys, sheep, ducks and goats in the outer bit of the farm.
We didn’t realise at the time but we ended up leaving the farm to explore a bit of Haggerston Park which is right next door, before coming back to see more animals.
By about 11.30am we had worked up an appetite so headed to onsite restaurant, Frizzante for brunch. Frizzante is run separately from the farm and is based on the Agriturismo’s in Italy where the farm restaurant offered all produce grown or reared on the farm. Though not all of Frizzante’s ingredients are from the farm, they do use local and smaller suppliers and all meals are prepared freshly on the premises.
We arrived at the perfect time, as by the time we had sat down and ordered, there was quite a queue at the door. Andy ordered the Canadian Brunch with toasted banana bread, bacon, eggs and maple syrup and I opted for the Vegetarian Brunch (picture from Instagram below) with eggs, mushroom, roasted tomato with oregano, spinach, homemade baked beans & toast. The girls had scrambled eggs on toast.
The food was really tasty and came reasonably quickly too. The service was patchy, one guy was really good but one waitress was pretty awful and begrudgenly fulfilling her duties. She was pretty dismissive when I flagged her down to ask for sauces and a highchair but the other good guy stepped in quickly to assist. The only negative thing I would say is that the cafe is more on the grubby / shabby side of shabby chic. The food was great though and I was impressed with how well the girls sat and how much they ate.
After food, we explored the garden bit of the farm.
Before heading off to a playground we had spotted in nearby Ion Square Gardens to run off energy before the drive home. The playground was great for preschoolers though it isn’t fenced off from the rest of the gardens so runaway toddlers need to by sharply supervised!
Though the swings were cordoned off with a metal barrier which I haven’t seen before, super useful to stop kids running towards the swings. We did think about stopping off in Victoria Park on the way back, as I keep hearing how great it is but we will save that for another time.
Hackney City Farm – 1a Goldsmiths Row, London, E2 8QA
Open Tuesday to Sunday (and Bank Holiday Mondays) from 10am-4.30pm
Entrance is free but donations are very welcome
Frizzante – 1a Goldsmiths Row, London, E2 8QA
Frizzante is open Tuesday to Sunday 10am–4.30pm and also open 7pm-11pm Thursday and Friday nights
Haggerston Park – Audrey St, London E2 8QH
Open 7am to dusk
Ion Square Gardens – 69 Warner Place, London, E2 7DB