Get a taste of the 'good life' this summer by heading to a local farm, picking your own fruit and veg or meeting the animals.
Picking your own fruit and veg is incredibly rewarding. It couldn't be fresher and nothing beats pulling it from the ground or bush with your own fair hands. If you're a city slicker, don't be put off; there are around 1000 pick-your-own farms in the UK, which are mainly situated on the outskirts of cities. If you don't fancy a foray in fruit fields, another way to get the kids out and about, is to visit a petting farm. We've suggested some of these too.
Where to pick
It's not just strawberries up for grabs, everything from courgettes to cherries, wild flowers to herbs, can be found at pick-your-own farms up and down the country - with some farms having up to 40 pickings on offer.
Pickyourownfarms.org.uk provides a list of farms across England, Wales and Northern Ireland with a region-by-region list of farms. Or you can enter your postcode at localsfoods.org.uk - for a list of your closest PYO farms and local food markets. Here's a few we've cherry-picked ourselves:
Copas farm, Cookam, Berkshire
Available pick-your-own varieties includes asparagus, cherries, gooseberries, runner beans, French beans and peas - there is also an onsite shop that stocks picked products as well as jams, eggs, sausages and bacon.
Garsons of Esher, Esher, Surrey
Durleighmarsh farm, Petersfield, Hampshire
Available varieties include wild flowers, herbs, tayberries, blueberries, sweetcorn, asparagus and much more - there's also a farm shop here.
Court farm, Tillingdon, Herefordshire
Pick-your-own treats include damson, cherries, rhubarb, cob nuts, beetroot, cucumber, cauliflower, garlic and more. A tea shop, farm animals, play and picnic area make this a super family friendly option.
Brocksbushes farm, Corbridge, Northumberland
Pick-your-own fruits include raspberries, blackberries, tayberries and plums and you can also enjoy a woodland walk as well as the tea rooms and farm shop.
Pick-your-own fruits include whitecurrants, rhubarb, gooseberries and a variety of strawberries and raspberries. There's also an art gallery and potting shed where you can purchase products from a local painter and metalwork artist.
Top tips for pick-your-own farms
Once you've picked your bounty, here are a few handy hints on how to make it last...
To improve the shelf life of soft fruit, try not to pull of their stalks as you pick. Instead, grip it behind the head and sever the stalk with your fingernails.
Pickles, jams and chutneys are a great way of using up a glut of pick-your-own fruit and veg - get inspiration from our pickles, jams and chutneys collection.
Full of beans
Broad beans are best picked when young and tender, although fatter ones can be good in soups like this summer veg-box soup.
Drying out fruit is a great way of preserving your haul, and one that's sure to be a hit with kids. Mix it up with muesli for breakfast or adapt this dried fruit compote.
Bring your own
Bring your own baskets and containers for storing your fruit and veg, as farms will normally charge extra for these. It's also worth bringing small, light baskets if little hands are also looking forward to some pick-your-own action.
Enjoy it. Picking-your-own is a great way of reconnecting yourself to the food you eat, and kids will love it too. Many farms also have picnic spots and cafes so you can indulge in some well-earned homemade cakes, local juices and ciders.
Urban animal farms
If getting out into the countryside isn't an option, then here's an alternative. You won't find fields of strawberries at these urban farms, but they are a great way of connecting children to nature, and lots of them offer sessions which allow children to feed or handle the animals. Here are some of our favourites...
Hounslow urban farm, Hounslow, Middlesex
There are plenty of opportunities to get hands on with cuddly critters and reptiles here, with the option to rehome a new-found animal friend if you’re game. There's a bouncy castle and ride-on toys, pig racing and interactive and educational animal shows everyday.
Wythenshawe Park community farm, Wythenshawe, South Manchester
If you want to see a prize-winning herd of Hereford cattle then this farm is for you, you'll also find the usual gaggle of cows, sheep, goats, pigs, ducks and horses. Visitors can meet the animals and have the chance of seeing feeding times too. There's a range of locally produced food, plus free range eggs at the farm shop too.
Meanwood Valley urban farm, Leeds
You'll find alpacas, bees, chickens, donkeys, goats and much more to explore at this working farm. If you're making a springtime visit then children may also get the chance to feed the lambs. You can print out a bird spotter checklist and map before you come, so kids can take charge. Meanwood Valley also runs a summer playscheme between July and August.
Search for an urban farm in your area.
Do you have any pick-your-own tips or suggestions for farms to visit? Let us know below.