A large 30-acre lavender field on a gentle hill with an open view on the surrounding countryside just a short drive or train ride North of London, where to enjoy a colourful scented carpet of lavender flowers with your four-legged pal by your side. It is dog-friendly Hitchin Lavender, at working farm Cadwell Farm in Ickleford, Hitchin, Hertfordshire. At the time of writing this post (early August 2020), the field is in full bloom so it is the best time to pay it a visit with your dog. All you need to know for planning your dog day out in this post.
Dog-friendly Hitchin Lavender
We had previously visited and told you about dog-friendly Mayfield Lavender Fields in Banstead, near Croydon (more in this post), after visiting which we discovered from a doggy-pal friend that Mayfield was not the only dog- friendly lavender farm. We had to wait a year to visit Hitchin Lavender, but full bloom was really worth the wait.
Dog policy at Hitchin Lavender
Something worth clarifying straight away is that, despite Hitchin Lavender’s website mentioning that while dogs are welcome on a lead they can’t walk the lavender rows, the latter restriction (no walking up the rows with dogs) is no longer in place and therefore the only relevant restriction is keeping your dog on a lead at all times.
We visited Hitchin Lavender unaware of the restriction mentioned on their website and had relied on its Instagram posts mentioning that dogs were welcome on a lead, and we didn’t find any signage indicating on site saying otherwise, nor the the staff did inform us of anything of the kind at the entrance. When writing this post we also confirmed with Hitchin Lavender staff that dogs on leads is the only restriction in place, so good news for dog owners!
In fact, not being able to walk up the rows would probably make it not worth visiting the farm with your dog, as the true value of a visit comes from that activity (if you just want to see the field from afar there is a public footpath running alongside two sides of the field).
What to see and do at Hitchin Lavender
The main attraction at Hitchin Lavender is, as just mentioned, walking up the lavender rows when they are in bloom, between late June and mid/end August. Full bloom dates vary and we advise you check Hitchin Lavender social media for the latest heads up on that.
In general, the fields are rather spectacular and we found the 2-hour slot allocated by the ticket was enough time for a proper visit, including a good walk up and down the rows, taking some photos and stopping for some refreshment. In normal times, they would offer pick your own lavender tickets, which may add to your experience, however due to Covid, there is no such option this year. Instead, you can buy a lavender bunch at their small shop on site.
At the end of August, you can also visit the sunflower patch, sitting just next to the lavender field, that is expected to bloom at the end of August (more later on the blog). They also host an open air cinema on selected nights (that sell out quickly as well) – we are currently confirming whether dogs are allowed at the screenings.
If you want to go for a lavender load, there is a small shop on site, selling lavender goods, from flower bunches (£6.50 a bunch) and lavender sachets to oils, hand and body creams, sprays, lavender plants and more. At the moment you won’t be walking in, but buying from the shop window.
You can also find a small cafe that serves ice-creams, home-made cakes, sandwiches, hot and fresh drinks and crisps. This means that you don’t need to bring your own water as you’ll find fresh one there. Outside the cafe there is a metal bucket with fresh water for dogs to drink as well.
While there is no indoor space at the cafe (and it currently sells through a window), you will find picnic tables both under the sun, and a couple under parasols, as well as a large tepee with tables underneath (see photo above), where to consume your tea or snack while enjoying some shade.
- On normal times, they have some additional facilities on site, that are closed at this time.
- Toilets are available on site.
- There is parking on site.
What we liked about Hitchin Lavender
Apart from the obvious beauty of the lavender fields in bloom, there are a number of things we loved about Hitchin Lavender, namely:
#1. Less crowded/not touristy – In comparison to Mayfield Lavender Fields, we found Hitchin Lavender much less crowded. I am not sure whether this was due to the booking system they have put in place due to Covid, or if also at normal times this farm is less stormed by the crowds, but this was a very welcome perk. In addition, we also found it not a touristy spot as the Mayfield, where a red phone booth in the lavender field (we are probably too much of an indie-type of people for this and found it a bit cheesy) is a popular stop among instagrammers and not for a snap.
#2. The open views – Hitchin Lavender offers an open view on the countryside. Far from a view enclosed by trees, you can gaze the hills and valleys surrounding the estate when you reach the top of the field, on a gentle hill. Going up the rows, the background over the lavender rows you will enjoy is just the sky (and probably some other people walking up), which is a fantastic view.
#2. Easy to reach by public transport – We were very glad to discover that the train takes you relatively close to the destination and that there is a’ dog-friendly taxi option (more below), as well as there being an alternative nice and safe walk to get there on foot. We found it a more enjoyable trip than the one we had to reach Mayfield. Travelling by car is also convenient and there is parking on site (more about the options in the ‘How to get there’ section below).
What could be improved
Thinking about what we’d had liked to see more at the farm, would be:
- more choice at the cafe’ would be nice, to make it a brunch out (something like eggs, beans, toast etc may be a nice one), although with the limited time available it’s probably not one that may not work at this time;
- probably more shade may help on particularly hot days, as we can imagine it can be a scorcher;
- some educational pieces around lavender, such as boards explaining more about the plant, the farm, etc or guided introductions could be an interesting addition, to take away more than just the views and lavender products from a visit.
In general, we found it a great dog day out. We booked the earliest time slot to avoid the heath and we were lucky to be blessed by a sunny but not too hot day. The field was stunning and flowers were in full bloom so the colours were truly spectacular.
In most parts of the field, walking up, the rows become really tight due to the size of the plants, so walking was a bit strange as you had to almost walk through the lavender. My friend was wearing long trousers which was probably a better option than my shorts, in this instance. I am not scared of bees, but some people we met were a bit nervous about them, so this is one to keep in mind. I walked in front of Argo, so that bees could fly away and hopefully avoid them flying into his open mouth.
After out visit, we had a walk along the public footpaths near the farm, that run along wheat fields and took the time to walk back from the farm to the station through the countryside on Icknield Way Trail (map slightly out of date though). Starting near the farm, before the railway bridge, it will take you through the country near the lavender field and then crossing the railway on a bridge. You will find yourself walking along a chalk stream (river Purwell) and come out of the path near the church next to the Old George pub. From there, it is a 20-ish-minute walk through the village to reach the station.
Things to know and tips for your dog-friendly visit
Things to know
As mentioned, at the farm there are lots of bees and hornets on the lavender plants. It is rather magnificent to see nature at work, but this also means that this is not the right place to visit if you/your dog are allergic and/or scared of bees or if your dog is an insect chaser.
Walking the rows was not necessarily easy in some points where the lavender was foully grown and it left very little to the passage so it may be a good idea to wear long trousers and in those parts walking ahead of your dog so that the bees fly away before him passing.
Tips for your visit:
- Go either in the earliest or latest slot to avoid the heat
- Arrive early on schedule to be among the first people in the queue and walk quickly up the rows for a bit, so you can take some photos with no people on the background
- Wear long trousers if you don’t like the feeling of plants on your legs
- Both with small children and with dogs, I’d advise you walk in front of your dog/child so at least some bees will fly away – with children, ask them to keep their mouth close as they walk up the rows, just in case.
- With small dogs, you may want to carry them where the footpath between rows is particularly tight
- If you are going with small children, know that prams won’t be able to go up the rows due to how thick they are, so bring a suitable baby carrier.
How to make it a dog day out
- Walk the Icknield Way Trail or take the public footpaths nearby the farm is a good activity to combine with your dog-friendly visit to Hitchin Lavender.
- Stop at the (dog-friendly) Old George pub nearby in Ickleford.
Dog-friendly Hitchin Lavender | Key Info
WHERE: Hitchin Lavender, Cadwell Farm, Arlesey Road, Ickleford, Hitchin, Herts, SG5 3UA
OPENING TIMES: Seasonal opening – full bloom varies from year to year (check their social media for updates). This year full bloom from week commencing 27/7. 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. Prices are: Adult £7 (£0.53 booking fee), disabled £4, children under 4 free. All tickets this year are non-picking. A fee for professional photography applies.
DOG POLICY: Dogs on a lead welcome (we confirmed no further restrictions apply). It goes without saying – dog owners are asked to pick up and dispose of any mess.
Dog-friendly pubs nearby: The Old George, 41 Arlesey Rd, Ickleford, Herts, SG5 3UX
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.