As I mentioned last year, Americans LOVE the season of fall. And American families spend their October weekends doing Fun Family Fall Activities outside, the main one being a trip to a farm for hay rides, pumpkin patches, and apple picking. I missed getting to do this last year, so this year I suggested we rent a car for a weekend and find a farm near London. We got lucky with a beautiful October Saturday.
We headed first to Crockford Bridge Farm.
It was crawling with Americans just like us, family-fun-on-the-farm-ready in our plaid button-down shirts with rolled-up sleeves and Hunter wellies. I’m telling you, this is an annual rite of passage for American families, much more so than British families.
There was a nice selection of pumpkins for sale, but the actual field where they’re grown was closed, so we weren’t able to tread into the pumpkin patch. We were also disappointed to learn they were no longer doing pick-your-own fruit or veg; that was all done for the year.
There was some children’s play equipment, though, and a zipline and a nice big tree swing, and a pile of hay bales for kids to climb on, so our kids played for a while, and E enjoyed helping me pick out our pumpkins. Plus they had a shack selling ice cream, so E ate the lunch we’d packed her at a picnic table and then we got ice cream cones.
Just across the car park, there’s a garden centre store, Christmas shop, and farm shop, plus café and small child’s soft play area (£2 per child to play). I also saw a list of activities they had planned for half-term, so that’s probably a better time to take the kids.
A friend of mine had recommended Garson’s Farm, and it wasn’t too far away, so we decided to head there next and see how that experience measured up.
Garson’s PYO crops were still going strong, so we plodded into the autumn raspberry field and filled our baskets with the juicy ruby jewels. E had a total blast doing this. I thought she’d tire of it quickly, or complain about the bushes poking her, but she loved picking raspberries, and checking everyone’s basket to see who had the most so far. She had so much fun we told her she could choose a couple more crops to pick, too.
Garson’s does have a pumpkin patch you can walk into, but since we’d already bought several pumpkins at the previous farm, we skipped that and picked carrots and butternut squash instead. Unfortunately, apple picking wasn’t an option.
After we’d paid just £11 for all our produce, we went into the farm shop. Garson’s has a large farm shop with loads of delicious-looking food. Next year I’m bringing a cooler.
It also had some, er, interesting Halloween treats.
There’s also a restaurant, large garden centre store (be warned: lots of toys in there), and, I was told later, a playground somewhere, but we didn’t know about it and didn’t see it.
It was late afternoon by the time we left, and M and I still hadn’t had lunch, so we headed to a pub we’d been wanting to try. It was perfect.
The Anglers is in Teddington and has a playground in the pub garden, a kids’ menu, and a nice spot right on the Thames. It’s harder to find pubs with play areas in London proper, because many places just don’t have enough space.
I decided British raspberries deserved a proper British recipe, so I made my first “Bakewell Tart.” But somehow I managed to forget to put the self-raising flour in. Whoops. I didn’t even admit my mistake to M; when he reads this is the first he’ll know about it. But you know what? It didn’t matter. It was actually delicious even without the flour. Just more dense. And hey, now it’s gluten-free, if that’s your thing. I made it a second time to use up the rest of the raspberries, and included the flour this time. It’s delicious both ways.
Here’s the recipe: Raspberry Bakewell Cake*
(Note: I’m no food blogger/photographer. Cakes don’t last long enough in our house to do a photo shoot of them. If you want really beautiful photos to go with a recipe, check out my friend Ryan’s blog, Husbands That Cook.)
*Can be made gluten-free if you simply leave out the flour. Which was totally on purpose because I was just trying to make it healthier. Yeah.