London has many city farms dotting its grounds. Some were founded to teach children more about farming and animals, others to engage the local community. All of them are home to a number of different farm animals, from chicken to sheep, donkeys to ponies, pigs to cows and even llamas. It would come natural to think that these little green paradises must be dog-friendly too. Unfortunately this is not the case. We went on a hunt for all city farms allowing dogs and discovered that canines are welcome in only 3 of them (worse, the list may be soon be cut to 2, following a dog policy review under way for one of them). But those which are dog-friendly are real treats! In this guide we tell you all about the dog-friendly city farms in London, so you can start planning a visit with your dog if it’s one that would be suitable.
Dog-friendly city farms in London
If you fancy visiting a dog-friendly city farm you’ll have to venture to East or South East London. In fact, for West London, we confirmed that Hounslow Urban Farm does not allow dogs; in North London, we confirmed that Kentish Town City Farm does not allow dogs on their grounds either; and the same goes for South London city farms Crystal Palace City Farm, Vauxhall City Farm (no dogs as their livestock and horses are very easily frightened, they say, although you can sit outside The Old Dairy in thier garden area), Deen City Farm (as confirmed with them) and the Woodlands Farm Trust; finally, in East London, are equally dog-unfriendly Stepney City Farm, Spitafields City Farm and Hackney City Farm (in their H&S policy).
Three city farms are a unique dog-friendly happy island: Surrey Docks Farm, Mudchute Park and Farm and Lee Valley Farm. Each different and unique for different reasons, this is what to expect and
Surrey Docks Farm
I have a particular love for Surrey Docks City Farm. It is a self-contained – and relatively small – farm nested between the river (actually the Thames Path) and a quiet residential area. You can spot Canary Wharf’s skyscrapers on the backdrop and it is a very quiet place. Well-behaved dogs are allowed at the farm and you can have the best time visiting with them. At the farm there are donkeys, pigs, sheep, ponies, chicken, ducks and more animals. In Spring they even host lamb feeding sessions (I went to one and it was the sweetest thing to feed a little cotton-like cloud), although that one may be one to do without your dog).
There also used to be a lovely dog-friendly cafe, Piccalilli Cafe, which used to be very busy at times, but closed down just before the New Year. Waiting for a replacement to take over, in the meantime you can stop by the farm’s shop to buy some local products.
If you want to complete your visit with an off-leash walk at the park, nearby you can find Russia Dock Woodland (more about it later on the blog) or have a stroll along Surrey Docks/Greenland Dock. Is the Moby Dick pub dog-friendly? doesn’t look like from website, call.
Where: Surrey Docks City Farm (Rotherhithe-Surrey Quays – 18 mins walk from Surrey Quays Overground station)
Price: Free, £3 suggested donation
If you are looking for larger spaces, Mudchute Farm is a terrific farm and park on Isle of Dogs which has fields and a lovely park as well. Their farm animals population is also impressive and alpacas, sheep, cows, pigs, goats, hens and other small animals live at the farm (there are over 100 of them!).
Dogs are welcome to visit, provided they are kept on a leash, but there is also a very large fenced area that dog owners use to give their dogs some good off-leash runs in the North West corner of the park and where the annual fun dog show is held. We love taking Argo there.
A stroll at the farm is not the only thing you can do there. In fact, you can enjoy a dog-friendly pit stop/brunch at Mudchute Kitchen, right next to the Equestrian Centre at the farm, where you can even enter a competition to make your dog the pet of the month. In addition, at the Equestian Centre are held dog agility classed on Monday nights (more about these and other agility classes in London in our dog sports guide).
Last but not least, if you want yet another excuse to visit, Muchute Farm and Park hosts an annual fun dog show, which is coming up on Sunday 2nd June and has a number of categories you can enter and stalls. A country-chic one, and last year there were doggy paddling pools too, for cooling down the four-legged! You can read about last year’s edition in this post.
Where: Mudchute Farm (Isle of Dogs – few mins walk from Mudchute DLR station)
Price: Free. You can donate here.
Lee Valley Farm Park (currently reviewing its dog-friendly policy)
Lee Valley Farm Park is located in the beautiful setting of Lee Valley -which also hosts an agility trail for dogs (a half hour walk from the farm) -, a great place for a long weekend walk. When we spoke with them, they told us “we are a dog-friendly site but respectfully ask that all dogs are kept on a lead at all times to ensure the safety and welfare of our animals and also other visitors. However, this policy is currently under review due to a few incidents we’ve had with dogs on site and as I’m sure you appreciate the animals in our care are our main priority.”
It was very sad to hear about some despicable episodes and even more sad that irresponsible behaviours can nudge to overturn dog policies, leading to dog bans. We’ll have to hope this will not be the case in this instance too.
Further to these three, a friend just flagged an event with a pop-up farm and fun dog show this Bank Holiday Monday 27th May! It will be held at Manor Farm (which despite the name is not a farm, it probably was at the time of the Tudors, when Manor Farm House was built) in Ruislip. There will be Ark Farm, a mobile farm, on site and the fun day will be running from 10 to 5pm. No further information is currently available regarding the dog show, but it may be a good chance to combine it with a visit to the Manor Farm grounds.
Not far from there, you can also head to Ruislip Lido, with its dog beach (which Argo loved when we visited the last two years), and dog-friendly Ruislip Lido Minianture Railway which we finally rode last year too. Great activites to combine for a full on Bank Holiday Monday.
Why going to a dog-friendly farm with your dog (and when not going)
Why would you want to go to a city farm with your dog? You’ll probably agree that the main reason is so that you can see all the animals without having to leave Spotty at home and combine dog walk and a new place.
A second good reason could also be that the experience can be a great training opportunity for your dog. Especially if you visit since they are puppies, this allows them to be exposed to different smells, experiences and stimuli. This helps your dog to grow in confidence and hopefully becoming uninterested in livestock, which is a good skill to have for when heading to the countryside where there is plenty of cattle (although also get them on a leash anyway in the countryside in presence of livestock).
Oh and yes, as a reader pointed out after we published this post further down in the comments, dogs can have a good fun at seeing the animals too (just don’t force them if they don’t, please)!
Of course going to a farm is not an experience which can suit every dog. If your dog gets easily triggered and barks a lot at other animals or shows signs of aggressiveness, definitely not a good one to try.
When visiting remember that the farm is the farm animals’ home, so make sure no barking/scaring/stressing them. If your dog starts barking at the animals, start by taking some steps back until your dog settles and reward for being quiet: that may be the minimum distance your dog can cope with and that gives farm animals their space for that day.
The general rule at the few city farms allowing dogs is that they must be kept on a short leash at all times and under control. Also, always clean after your dog, even if there is farm animal’s poo and remember that respecting these simple rules helps preserving the privilege of being able to walk in with our dogs.
If you visit a farm, you can also find the Government guidelines for avoiding infections when visiting a farm here.
Dog training around horses at the stables
In case your focus is training your dog to be around other animals, there is one more option you can consider. Not at a farm, but at Wimbledon Village Stables, every month a retired police dog handler hosts a taster workshop for dogs around horses.
We joined the last edition with rescue dog from Spain Lugo, and found it quite interesting. There dog owners are provided with instructions and have the chance to exercise their dog’s recall in presence of horses. Classes last one hour and tickets are £5 (free for Wimbledon Common residents), so great value for money. The next class date is Sunday 9th June, in case you want to sign up there is a limited number of dog places.