Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Bringing the countryside to the Capital: London's City Farms (Vauxhall)

London often feels very far removed from the countryside I grew up in. However, dotted around around London are 15 city farms - offering urbanites the chance to experience a working farm and help introduce children to farm animals. Staying close to home in South London, Vauxhall City Farm was the first on our list...

Vauxhall City Farm - Riding School
Located just around the corner from The Oval, Vauxhall City Farm is squeezed into an essentially residential area. Naturally limited by space in an urban environment, the site is efficiently divided between a petting zoo, an ecology garden, stables and, across the road, a riding school. Initially excited by the obligatory rabbits and guinea, which you could stroke through the wire fence, we moved on to much greater things: horses. Whilst perhaps not the highlight of the farm for me, Vauxhall City Farm's horses strongly support the learning-driven initiative. Offering partially subsidised riding lessons for children and the disabled, as well as Pony Club Stable Management classes, the farm's integrity does not lie predominantly with the animals labelled as tourist attractions. 

Designed to teach children about an unspoilt natural environment, the ecology garden is complete with a pond, a bog and a wormery. Sitting in this wild garden, suddenly it seemed very strange that we were only 10 minutes from Central London - but perhaps this distance from the bustling city is what makes city farms such unique experiences.

Imitating this happy chap who loves the ecology garden

As we visited the farm at the beginning of March, I was insistent that I wanted to see lambs. In fact, lambs were the only thing I wanted to see - lots and lots of tiny, springy lambs. And these ones did not disappoint. Greeted by a handful of the smiliest, speckliest lambs I've ever seen, they were extremely tame and we were able to stroke them through the bars (but they were much too excitable to hang around for long!)

However, my favourite part of our Vauxhall City Farm visit was the goats. Shameless and relentless, the goats jumped up onto the railings as visitors walked by in hope of a snack! Living in an enclosure with a shifty looking alpaca, the goats were extremely friendly and gentle - genuinely excited to see people, and more than happy to be stroked (...even if it was only triggered by a constant yearning to be fed!) This goat was our favourite, but we weren't quite sure why he only had one horn...

We moved on to see ducks, geese and a turkey gathered around the pond. And next, a couple of happy, snuffly pigs. Finishing off in the vegetable garden, Vauxhall City Farm leads an active horticultural group - with evidence of a multiplicity of different vegetables being grown on the farm.

As well a fantastic collection of really well looked after animals, it was the riding volunteers, and co-operative vegetable gardens that helped give this farm a real community feel. We left, even as visitors, feeling like we'd been part of a really positive local initiative; one which educates as well as entertains, and provides an authentic rural experience for those living in an urban centre.


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