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4 dog-friendly sunflower patches near London

By August 12, 2020No Comments

Late Summer means that sunflowers are blooming. Fancy visiting a sunflower patch with your dog? In this guide, written together with our friend Skylar the Weimaraner (follow her at @skylar_weimaraner) and her human Anne, you’ll find all you need to know to arrange a visit at one of four dog-friendly sunflower patches near London where you can enjoy a flower overload, buy some goods to take home and in some cases even pick your own flowers/ fruit/vegetables at the farm. [Cover image credits: Sasha Sashina]

Dog-friendly sunflower patches near London

Sunflower and blue skye

Credits: James Frid

Skylar and Anne have recently dug out and visited two local farms near London that grow sunflowers and are open for people to visit and buy, and they tell about their experience. We added two more sunflower patches to the list, so now it’s just for you to choose which to visit first!

These are working farms rather than touristic attractions (only one is set up slightly differently and used to high volumes of people), and being allowed to visit with your dog is a privilege that everyone helps preserving by being a responsible dog owner. A few things to keep in mind when visiting these farms:

  • Farmers rely on the income from pick your own sales and flower sales, so especially where there is no fixed entrance fee, buy generously
  • For professional photography sessions there is often a separate authorisation/fee/slot: check out the farms’ websites to know more
  • Keep your dog on a lead and under control at all times
  • Clean up after your dog and dispose of any mess appropriately

What drove Anne and Skylar to look for and visit these farms was exploring more locally and feeling connected to the community, “We wanted to show our support to those who have helped provide to the nation during this difficult time, British farmers – the unclapped heroes, and particularly to small family-owned/independent farms near London,” Anne says. So do like Anne and Skylar and enjoy your visit, showing your support to the farmers.

Meopham PYO in Kent

Dog carries sunflower bunch at Meopham dog-friendly sunflower patches

Credits: photo courtesy of Skylar @Skylar_weimaraner

Meopham PYO

  • Where: Meopham PYO, Broomfield Fruit Farm, Ifield Road, Meopham DA13 0QH, Kent
  • Opening times: PYO season runs from 1st June to 31st October. Open on Saturdays and Sundays 10am to 4pm. No pre-booking required
  • Dog Policy: Dogs are allowed both on the farm for walks, picking your own fruit and at the White Finch Tea Rooms.
  • Official website: meophampyo.co.uk/
  • How to get there: By car, it is a short drive from Central London. This farm can also be reached by public transport, taking the Southeastern train from Victoria to Meopham Station (or from St Pancras to Gravesend Station) and then bus no. 306 to Steele’s Lane, just a couple of minutes walk from the farm.

What Skylar & Anne liked:
Is a genuine family working farm, no frills and when open to the public on Saturdays & Sundays is PYO (Pick-Your-Own). The owners of the land give you all access to walk around their farm. There are seasonal fruits, vegetables and a sunflower field (with yellow and the more exotic purple sunflowers) to pick.
Great find for those seeking to source their own seasonal produce from the farm gate. There’s already picked produce to buy at the farm stall so you won’t come home empty-handed. What we liked most is the experience of food provenance, as you can pick your produce directly from the fruit trees or plants themselves. The sections of the farm that are not ready for harvest are clearly marked.

What to know:
The costs for each available seasonal produce is listed at the entrance of the farm stall, weighted and paid on exit. Secateurs are available to hire for a £1 deposit (refundable upon return) if you have not brought your own. This is not an Insta-location to take photographs and be seen. It’s a genuine experience to see how hard-working people live off their land and the support you give by buying their produce.

Dog with cows at Mepham farm

Credits: Photo courtesy of Skylar

Minor criticisms:
In the first visit, the first half hour of walking around the farm can be overwhelming as the sections are not marked to inform what kind of produce is available. For some of us city folk with very little knowledge of vegetables and fruit trees, we don’t know what is what. For example, I didn’t know what a rhubarb plant looked like vs. a random shrub. A rough sketch map for visitors would have helped so not to miss out. So we ended up walking every patch, every row just to see what was planted and if any we wanted to pick.
Their social media presence can also be improved, currently only on Twitter and Facebook – so will need to check those prior to visit to know what is ready for harvest.
There are (clean) toilets by the car park but are not clearly marked, just a random outbuilding on-site that you need to find.

How to make it a day out:
They have an on-site cafe / store – which under current rules visitors must wear a mask to enter. Dogs are not allowed in but there is plenty of seating area outside. The cafe serves a mixture of light bites (sandwiches & salads) and cake. Within the cafe they also have a store to sell their packaged produce such as fresh juices (apple and/or pear), fresh honey and other sundries.
There’s also special feed you can buy from the farm stall to feed their resident pigs and there are also cows on site to make it a very fun day out with kids. It’s gated, but just be sure dogs are controlled around these animals.
In the Meopham village, there is a cute windmill (Killick’s Mill) that is a stone’s drive away to discover or Camer Park Country Park which offers vast grounds for off-lead walks. And plenty more attractions in surrounding Kent to make it a full day out – just plan ahead how you will keep your produce fresh if you’re making other stopovers.

Dog facilities:
There are waste bins available close to the farm stall and entrance to the farm. There are water bowls outside the cafe/store. Dogs are allowed on-lead everywhere in the farm, except in the indoor cafe/store areas.

Recommended length of visit: walk around the farm with picking 1 hour, with food & drink possibly 2 hours.

Writtle Sunflowers in Essex

Dog at Writtle Sunflower one of the dog-friendly sunflower patches near London

Credits: Photo courtesy of Skylar @Skylar_weimaraner

Writtle Sunflowers

  • Where and how to get there: Writtle, 2 miles from Chelmsford city centre, ​just off the mini-roundabout between the A1060 and Lordship Road. Sat nav: CM1 3RY
  • Opening times: vary from week to week and flowers availability, check their website and social media for updates. No pre-booking required.
  • Dog rules: Dogs are welcome as long as they are kept under control and don’t disturb other visitors, and you clean up after them.  To keep in mind that the farm is next to a busy road and have no fence.
  • Official website: writtlesunflowers.weebly.com/
  • Prices:
    • Working farm, not set up as a tourist destination, just somewhere to sell you the freshest sunflowers. No fixed entrance fee; sunflowers are picked fresh from the field for you and will be £7 for a bunch, or £12 for two bunches. All flowers are subject to availability. Contactless card payment only.
    • Photography sessions are booked and sold separately
  • How to get there: best reached by car, but in case you wish to travel by public transport you can get a train from Liverpool Street to Chelmsford, and then the no 32 bus to Chignal Corner and a 15-20 minute walk (we can’t confirm whether the route has sidewalks though).

What Skylar & Anne liked:
Small, simple family-run flower farm with their sunflower field as the main attraction. One of the few dog-friendly Pick-Your-Own sunflower farms near London.
Popular among the local Essex community but is not yet considered an attraction and hasn’t drawn crowds from London. Hidden gem really. The farm owners do this just to sustain their costs so they appreciate if visitors support by buying some flowers from them. There’s just a hut where your flowers are priced up and paid.

What to know:
The sunflower field sits on private land and is not fenced and runs alongside roads – so dogs must stay on lead and children be accompanied by parents. No commercial photography allowed unless pre-booked slots are approved by the landowner. Two price options available depending on the size of the bunch. Must bring your own scissors / secateurs. Children not allowed to cut sunflowers themselves as the stalks left are very sharp and may injure them.

Sunflower at Writtle sunflowers

Credits: Photo courtesy of Skylar

Minor criticisms:
No set day or time of opening so makes it a bit hard for planning. Updated information is only available on the FB page and can change even on the day itself due to demand of visitors vs. supply of flowers available. It is up to the discretion of the farm to open/close in order to let their land rest and flowers bloom. So recommended a visit only if you happen to be around the Chelmsford area. If not opened, although accessible from the road, it is considered trespass and illegal to stop for a photo or help yourself to the sunflowers and may be prosecuted if caught.

How to make it a day out:
Make other plans too in the area to avoid any disappointment should opening times change. There is Hylands House & Estate for off-lead walks just a 6-minute drive away from the farm or a half hour drive to the Essex coast to explore the many seaside villages.

Recommended length of visit: for farm under an hour

Hitchin Lavender in Hertfordshire

Dog at Hitchin Lavender near sunflower patch

The sunflower patch is the green field on the background

Hitchin Lavender sunflower patch

  • Where: Hitchin Lavender, Cadwell Farm, Arlesey Road, Ickleford, Hitchin, Herts, SG5 3UA
  • Opening times: Seasonal opening (check their social media for updates on blooming times). This year sunflowers bloom is expected at the end of August. During Covid times: 4 time slots a day available: 9-11 am, 12-2pm, 3- 5pm, 6- 8pm pre-booked ticket holders only
  • Prices: Pre-booking required (places are released weekly and sell out quickly), book through their website. Entrance fees are: Adult £7 (and £0.53 booking fee), disabled £4, children under 4 free. All tickets this year are non-picking. A fee for professional photography applies (more info on their website).
  • Dog policy: Dogs on a lead welcome (we confirmed no further restrictions apply). Goes without saying, dog owners are asked to clean up after their dogs.
  • How to get there
    • By car: Travelling from the A1M they recommend you turn off at Junction 10 towards Stotfold. The A507 takes you towards Letchworth and Hitchin and within two miles you will see signs to Ickleford, follow these. When you enter the village the farm is immediately on your left.
    • By public transport: you can easily reach the farm taking the train from London King’s Cross or Finsbury Park Station to Hitchin (a less than 30 minutes ride from Finsbury Park!). In front of Hitchin station there is a taxi bay from where you can take adog-friendly taxi to the field (Tinys Taxis and Boxall Taxis offer this service – Argo went into the car booth). It takes approx. 10 minutes by taxi to get there (normally for a £7 fare – though our taxi driver asked for £13). Alternatively, you can walk from the station to the farm through the village and, near the Old George pub and the church, turn right on the Icknield Way public footpath that will take you directly at the farm.

Hitchin Lavender, as the name suggests, is famous for its lavender fields, blooming from late June until mid August this year (about how to plan a dog-friendly visit to Hitchin Lavender here). However the farm also has a sunflower patch, which blooms a bit later than the lavender – this year expected towards the end of August, that you can visit with your dog. Check their social media for updates on flowering.

Visiting the farm:

Compared to the first two farms mentioned above, this one is more used and set up for many visitors from London and other areas. Visits of the farm can be booked for 2-hour slots, which is enough time for a good walk around the field and stopping for a picnic. Tickets are released weekly and sell out fast, so it is advisable to book them early to avoid disappointment.

You can more about the farm and its facilities in this post.

How to make it a dog day out:

To make it a dog day out, you can enjoy a lunch at dog-friendly pub The Old George, nearby in Ickleford, or go for a walk on Icknield Way Trail or in the countryside nearby the farm.

Pierson Agriculture at Four Winds Farm in Kent

Piersons Agriculture at Four Winds Farm sunflowers

Credits: Piersons Agriculture at Four Winds Farm

Four Wind Farm

  • Where: Four Winds Farm, Bidborough, Tunbridge Wells, TN3 0LL
  • Opening times: Pre-booking required. Numbers strictly limited and 3 x 2hr sessions available each day 10am-12pm, 12pm-2pm & 2pm-4pm, on selected dates only
  • Dog rules: Well-behaved dogs on a lead welcome.
  • Official website: They don’t have a website, but you can find their Facebook page
  • Prices: tickets Adults £6; 4-16 yrs £2; under 4 yrs (and dogs) free
  • How to get there: we recommend you travel by car, as it is quite a trip to reach the farm by public transport

Pierson Agriculture at Four Winds Farm has a small sunflower patch, which can be visited on special tours. This year, unfortunately, they said that deer have eaten all sunflowers, so they had to repurpose their tours, which now include nature trail around the farm, trailer ride and sheep shearing demo, as well as what remains of their sunflowers. Well-behaved dogs on a lead are welcome.

The last few tickets are available online to take part to the event on Sunday 16 August.

Fancy more dog day trips out of London? Find more inspiration here.

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