A childhood in North Wales surrounded by farmland has led me to have certain assumptions about the world, which are being challenged by my partner Tim. He of middle class suburban youth has had many experiences non-typical for me, such as being Captain of his private school’s shooting team l o l l e.
But apparently many things I experienced are not shared by him, or it turns out many people I know. These life experiences that I assumed were part of everyone who lived near a field’s childhood include scratching a pig’s back, having an innate knowledge of what a badger smells like and recognising that pregnant cows walk in a particular manner. Since this original conversation, I have also learned that knowing not to let pregnant women near sheep afterbirth is not common childhood knowledge either.
So in order to give Tim a basic understanding of what I’m referencing half the time, while I chew on my piece of hay and refuse to rise until a cockerel has crowed, I decided to take Tim to a city farm.
After discussions with various pals about the wealth of city farms in London, we opted for Mudchute Farm. Mudchute Farm sits on the Isle of Dogs in a lovely little haven of grassland and trees, and is free to visit (though you can become an annual member for a £10 donation that goes towards keeping the animals safe and happy, or you can sponsor one of the animals). You can take along your own carrots or buy little bags of grass pellet feed to give to all the animals, but please please do not take bread as there are many signs stating this is not good for the animals and you wouldn’t believe how many people I saw flaunting this. If you see it, call it out, and keep the lovely donkeys safe.
So back to the pig scratching quest, which was achieved! I did point out to Tim that pigs can bite and this sow was a particularly muscley babe, so the first few scratches were done with great trepidation.
He also fed a donkey grass for the first time just as two little girls both under the age of six were also experiencing their first snuffly hoover of grass. Their mother and myself looked on with pride as the three of them dashed up a hill to get nice juicy grass to feed to the grey donkey.
My personal favourite was an inexplicably cordoned off sheep who loved being tickled behind the ears and really leaned into it.
The train station (Mudchute on DLR) is rather close by. Accessibility may be an issue for those in wheelchairs if there has been heavy rain recently, but in the dry heat of the summer there should be no problems. There is a cafe by the riding school that does a decent range of meals, and if you need a quieter area to ponder and rest, I recommend the petting zoo behind the stables where there is a snoozy ferret and some bunnies.
I really enjoyed Mudchute as a perfect haven from city life – even if you can see Canary Wharf over the hill – helping you to forget that Monday morning conference call and remembering how green the city can be. Have you been to Mudchute? If you go soon, be sure to comment and send me a picture of you with your favourite farm animal.