Newsletter sign up

Countryside in the City – London’s City Farms

By | Blog | No Comments

 

Although it may not seem like it when you’re in the parts of the city more concrete than countryside, there is a lot of green space in London. Between the Royal Parks, commons and community gardens, it doesn’t take long to get away from it all even when you’re in the middle of the city.

Amongst the green spaces you can visit on your trip to London, the city has a number of small farms that keep small numbers of livestock and allow city dwellers to get closer to our pastoral roots. A perfect place to take kids of all ages, the city farms are an interactive experience where you can get up close and personal with the farm animals and learn more about how our food is farmed.

 

Spitalfields City Farm

Right in the middle of the city, close to Liverpool Street Station, is Spitalfields City Farm. Offering a range of exciting activities for children and adults to get involved with and really get their hands dirty, the farm has plenty to keep you occupied.

donkey poney spitalfields city farm

A couple of the cheery residents at Spitalfields City Farm

With a keen focus on environmental issues and a hub for local volunteers, Spitalfields City Farm has a real community feel and is a relaxing place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

 

Belmont Children’s Farm

If you want something a little bit different for the kids to get involved with on your visit to London, try Belmont Children’s Farm. With over 30 different kinds of animals ranging from the usual sheep and goats through to alpacas and even some wallabies and eagle owls, the farm has really gone all out with getting a whole range of creatures for kids to get to know.

North of the RAF Museum, Mill Hill is a bit of a trek out of the city but does offer a unique experience for the little ones in your family.

 

Mudchute Park and Farm

By far the largest urban farm, Mudchute has approximately 34 acres of land on the Isle of Dogs along with a tea shop and lots of educational activities for young and old alike.

sheeps muduchute farm

Some of the residents of Mudchute Farm, with Canary Wharf beyond

One of the benefits of so much space is the opportunity to take part in some activities that are less accessible on a smaller site. If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to ride a horse but never plucked up the nerve, Mudchute might just provide you with the chance to do just that.

 

Stepney City Farm

Stepney has the City Farm that offers the experience that’s probably closest to life on a rural farm of any of the others in London. A fully working farm with livestock used for farming purposes, you’ll be able to see how a farm operates through the regular working processes. Sheep-shearing, milking cows and collecting eggs from the hens are coupled with a farm trail, gift shop and the chance to buy produce reared and made on the site to take home with you as a reminder of your unique experience.

 

Conclusion

While London feels about as far from the rural idyll as you could possibly imagine, there are lots of places where you can get back in touch with nature and learn a thing or two about the countryside, farming and the animals that keep us in food and clothes. With a few unusual and interesting animals thrown into the equation, London has a range of city farm experiences that offer you the chance to see something you’re unlikely to find anywhere else and make yours a trip to remember.

Image Credits: S Pakhrin and Ewan-M

Meet the Animals at London Zoo

By | Blog | No Comments

 

The last thing you might expect to find on a trip to the city is a lot of wildlife, but that’s just what you’ll get if you take a trip to London Zoo. The home of the Zoological Society of London and the world’s oldest scientific zoo, you will find a collection of over 755 species of animals making it one of the largest zoos in the UK.

The zoo has had a number of famous firsts throughout its lifetime, including being the first to open a reptile house, public aquarium and insect house in the world and being the first place in the UK to have a zoo specifically set up for children.

 

Main attractions

One of the main draws to the zoo, and one of the more recent additions to the collection, is Gorilla Kingdom. Opened by the Duke of Edinburgh in 2007, the gorilla enclosure houses a number of different types of apes and monkeys that are free to roam and play in the specially constructed gorilla gym.

The aquarium, which stands on the site of the first aquarium in the world to open all the way back in 1853, continues to cause quite a stir. Through three separate halls housing freshwater, coral reef and Amazonian species you will see a range of fish and other aquatic creatures from around the world. In addition, you will find the Big Fish Tank, which houses large species of fish that have been rescued from lives as domestic pets because they outgrew their owners’ ability to take care of them.

london zoo aquarium

London Zoo’s aquarium, which is the oldest in the world

If you’re visiting with children, they’re bound to enjoy a trip around Animal Adventure. Including a number of playgrounds, a fountain and a whole host of interesting animals, children can get up close with a number of domestic animals and see into the worlds of a whole host of species. The central attraction is the Meerkat enclosure, which children can access by crawling through a series of tunnels to reach a see-through dome that allows them to peer right into the Meerkat habitat.

Some of the oldest inhabitants of the zoo are Dolly, Dolores, Polly and Priscilla – four Galapagos giant tortoises who took up residence at the zoo nearly four years ago. Known to live up to 170 years, the species has become endangered due to their hunting for tortoiseshell and as a culinary delicacy.

galapagos giant tortoise

The Galapagos giant tortoises are some of the stars of the zoo

Future developments

One of the major areas of work for conservationists at the zoo is the Tiger S.O.S Programme, which aims to save the Sumatran Tiger from extinction. As part of the project there will be the development of a new Tiger HQ at the zoo and a new exhibit where some of the rescued tigers can be seen in the city.

As the zoo receives no state funding, it is reliant on visitors, friends and fellows to contribute the money it needs to carry out its important conservation work and keep the animals already housed in the zoo. A visit to the zoo will do more than just inform and entertain; it will help continue the valuable work of the zoologists who are keeping and conserving vital species of animals from all over the globe.

Conclusion

With everything from alpacas to zebras, London Zoo is one of the finest in the world and well worth a visit on any trip to the city. Close to Regent’s Park and with a number of activities and exhibits that all the family can enjoy, it makes for a great day outdoors with the kids.

 

Image Credits: Wikipedia 1 & 2

London’s Lesser Known Parks and Gardens

By | Blog | No Comments

 

Although it has its fair share of urban sprawl, London is a surprisingly green city with a large number of parks and gardens that break up the buildings and give respite from the crush and traffic. From the skies, what appear to be unbroken urban developments is more of a patchwork with plenty of parks and gardens in between the buildings.

The Royal Parks, such as Hyde Park and Regent’s Park, are well-known to visitors as part of the London landscape but there are many smaller and less well-known parks and gardens that provide little escapes from the hubbub to locals and visitors alike.

On your next trip to London, seek out some of these secret green spaces and find your new favourite park in the city far from the madding crowd.

 

Russell Square

Across London, there are countless garden squares that were built for the private use of residents in some of the most fashionable areas of London. While most of these remain as residents-only parks, several have been opened up to the public and provide a small sanctuary from the bustle of London’s busy streets.

cabmen shelter russell square

The Cabmen’s Shelter at Russell Square

Russell Square is one such garden square that is now open for public visiting. One of the larger gardens, Russell Square has park benches, flower beds and just enough trees to shield the space from some of the noise of the traffic. The square is also home to one of only 13 remaining operational cabmen’s shelters, where licenced London Black Cab drivers can get a hot meal when on duty in the city, subsidised by the Cabmen’s Shelter Fund.

 

Victoria Park

Known locally as the People’s Park, Victoria Park has consistently been voted as the favourite park of Londoners looking for an escape from the city. Covering just short of 90 hectares of open space in East London, the park has become well-known for the popular music festivals that have taken place in the park since the 1980s.

For locals, there are plenty of sporting activities to keep people moving including two league football clubs, an athletics club and cricket played every evening through the summer on the Park’s three wickets. However, there’s plenty for the out-of-town visitor too, and you can see some of the remnants of the now-rebuilt London Bridge in the form of two pedestrian alcoves that now act as sheltered benches for those looking for shade from the sun or a refuge from the rain. Although the bathing pond hasn’t seen action from bathers since the 1930s, the pond is now popular with anglers who use it to practice their coarse fishing skills in the city.

 

Hampstead Heath

The largest and probably best known of the central London green spaces without Royal charter is Hampstead Heath. Known simply as the Heath to locals, this open space in North London covers a huge 320 hectare area and has plenty of activities and attractions to bring in urban escapists.

hampstead heath pond

One of the many ponds on Hampstead Heath

 

One of the most widely known activities on the Heath is outdoor swimming. There are two separate swimming ponds for gentlemen and ladies that are open all year round in all weathers, and a mixed sex pond that’s open only during the summer months. Swimmers can be seen in the ponds on every day of the year, including when there’s ice on the surface of the water.

It’s a little-known fact that the Heath has its own police force with all the powers of a regular constabulary that can be enforced within the boundaries of the park. The Hampstead Heath Constabulary numbers 12 constables and four trained police dogs that patrol the park 24 hours a day to ensure the by-laws of the heathland are adhered to.

 

Conclusion

While most visitors to London come for the many urban sights, you’ll find plenty of green space if you want a break from the crush of the crowds. Although the Royal parks are popular, you’ll probably find that there’s a bit of green space much closer than you think.

 

 

Image Credits: Wikipedia 1 & 2

Support London’s Air Ambulance

We are delighted to support London’s Air Ambulance, helping to extend the reach of their lifesaving missions across London. The London Helicopter will match your donation to double its impact.

css.php