If you happen to be in Shoreditch on a busy weekend, quickly escape from the touristic crowd of Brick Lane and Columbia Road flower market for something a bit more different in London. Coming from Paris, the idea of finding a farm in the middle of the city in London was completely absurd to me at first. Indeed, so close to all these vintage shops and hipster restaurants is a 32 years old farm, now hosting plenty of different animals.
There, you can discover pigs, donkeys, goats, rabbits, hens, chickens, guinea pigs, geese, ducks, and sheep, as there would be in any real farm. In addition to being a place where children can discover these animals, loads of workshops around farming and environmental themes are organised to make them discover nature. School trips are also encouraged, with possible guided tours. Not exactly the boring school trip you used to have.
For hungry lost tourists, the farm has a cafe "Frizzante", which offers brunches and lunches, featuring eggs of the local hens. Every type of healthy rural food is served there, for you to live the full countryside experience, like the classic Farmer's Breakfast (Free Range Scrambled Eggs, Grilled Back Bacon, Handmade Sausage, Grilled Flat Mushroom, Homemade Baked Beans, Roasted Tomato with Oregano & Buttered Granary Toast. To reassure you, the bacon and chicken served aren't from the animals of the Hackney City Farm, and some vegan and vegetarian options are available.
But this is only the tip of the iceberg of fun this farm offers, as it acts as a real community in the neighbourhood. It created its own school, to offer a unique alternative education for young people "who are not in school because of behaviour, emotional and/or social difficulties leading to a lack of engagement, disaffection and poor attendance." The classes are around animal husbandry, horticulture, farm building maintenance, bicycle maintenance, cooking, and much more.
For adults, courses are offered in straw bale building, food smoking, beekeeping and rag rug making. The beekeepers actually come often, as there are a few hives hidden away in a safe place for bees and visitors in the farm.
Other of these farms exist in London: Surrey Docks Farm, Stepney City Farm, Vauxhall City Farm, Kentish Town City Farm etc. Each is different, offering different kinds of animals and activities so don't hesitate to visit several of them.
Before you go home from this trip to this fake countryside, don't forget to donate to help the farm feed its animal. You wouldn't want such a nice place to close.