This week we had an invite to visit Dean City Farm just South of Wimbledon. I was slightly uncertain whether it would hold enough interest for my 8 yr old. However my friend knows me well. ‘ They also have a community garden’ she says dangling a large carrot before me and knowing that I am never one to miss the chance to visit a garden.
The Farm is situated on land owned by the National Trust’s Morden Hall Park, but you enter the farm through a light industrial site. It certainly is in an urban setting. However this is just one side of the farm. The other boundaries are the River Wandle (this is the river that gives Wandsworth its name) and the tram line which runs between Wimbledon and Croydon. This tramline is a real added bonus for children as the trams are frequent, a bit of a novelty in this part of London and great for spotting.
Morden Hall Park
Our day started with a quick foray into Morden Hall Park. What a delight – a wander along the river Wandle, a foot crossing over the tramline and you then find yourself in a wetland environment with bull rushes and reeds. The Park also has a woodland play area and I’m assured by one of my companions that the rose garden has the most perfect stream for a hot summer’s day paddle. The children loved the woodland play area and all the bridges in the Park . It was poo sticks galore. There was even one little chappy with a huge supply of sticks on a bridge merrily handing them out to any passing child. The wetland area the paths were flat and easy for every child to run around and trace arrows and names in the sandy soil.
Dean City Farm
The Farm has beautiful chickens, the woolliest sheep you have ever seen and an eclectic selection of other animals. My son’s favourites were the ferrets! It has a riding school within it and children can also become a farmer for a day or a week – real country kids. We learnt from one of them that why one of the goats had had its horns cut to stop it curling around and cutting into its skin. I also learnt a use for those grapes that seem to discolour so quickly. They are a favourite with ducks, as are tomatoes and lettuce. White bread apparently does them no good what so ever.
I have saved the best to last as we visited the community garden at the end of our visit. The farm was very busy on this very sunny February half term day. For some reason though most visitors passed by the garden and there was an immediate feeling of tranquillity upon entering. The children loved it. It seemed to have all the elements to make it really child friendly. Pathways to run around, raised beds to make access to beds easy, a tree to climb, a pond and places to sit and hide. For the wildlife there were log piles and bee hotels.
Lots of the plants were labelled and many were beginning to peep through the ground. It was clear that many herbs and bee friendly plants were being grown. I loved the willow spyglass. The ‘prayer’ flags also seemed to work perfectly in the urban setting. There was a large vegetable bed and all raised beds for veg growing. It all served to show what can be achieved in a relatively small space of ground.
This garden had clearly been designed and evolved with a great deal of care and attention. The Farm is a touch of the countryside within the city and within that there is this little oasis of a garden, well worth a visit even if you do not have children with you.