The air is turning crisp and the incredible highs of one of Britain’s hottest summers fade away as the northern hemisphere embraces autumn. It is a time that normally sees people retreating into their homes in search of cosiness and warmth.
But despite the drop in temperatures, the weather remains fine, and with the assistance of a jumper or coat, Brits - particularly Londoners - should not abandon outdoor activities just yet. As the leaves turn vibrant yellows, reds and browns, the outside world demands to be appreciated before it becomes bare and bitterly cold. To quote L.M. Montgomery’s iconic red head, Anne of Green Gables, “I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”
And where better to embrace the wonders of October than on a farm? Providing a welcome break from the rush of city life and a refreshing return to nature, why not spend a Saturday or Sunday on one of Britain’s Pick Your Own (PYO) farms?
The concept is simple: turn up at the farm, and spend a leisurely afternoon picking your own fresh, organic fruit and vegetables, weigh and pay at the end. A perfect activity for families, friends or even just a peaceful day spent in your own company.
PYO farms are well spread out over the entire country, and even the Londoner, who may feel surrounded by bricks and mortar, only needs to take a quick train ride to reach this off-grid sanctuary.
Hewitt’s PYO Farm is located to the south of London, in the shire of Kent. For busy Londoners hoping to have a quick respite from city life, all they need to do is jump on a Southeastern train from London Bridge and in half an hour they will find themselves at Knockholt Station, where a 10 minute walk through a public golf course will take them to the wide fields of the farm.
The farm boasts a wide variety of produce. Apple trees burst with everything from red Gala apples to Ergemont Russets. Always wander down to the far ends of the orchards where you will find the larger, riper apples, hanging from the lower branches. Give the apple a small twist and pull upwards and off it should come.
It is not just small apples but cooking apples that are fresh for the picking. If you are in the mood for making an apple crumble you have come to the right place. Pears are available too, dangling from the trees in bunches that will immediately put you in mind of renaissance paintings.
You may be surprised to find that plums look a little smaller hanging from trees, but they are still just as sweet. However, you will make up for the size when you head over to the courgette beds. Good luck in picking a courgette less than a foot long! There are also green beans, and in about a week you will find a field of pumpkins ready to pick just in time for Halloween.
The farms are perfect for all ages, and a wander through the fields and orchards will reveal couples of all ages, groups of friends, teenagers and young adults, families young and old, and even extended. They leisurely pick their produce, snap a photo or two and then pay at the counter at the end of the day, maybe picking up a jar of locally made honey or jam at the same time. The final delight at the end of your trip is just how little you end up spending.
Not only do these farms make for a pleasant day, but they also provide a wonderfully cost-effective shopping trip. For a bag of apples, pears, plums and a courgette larger than your forearm expect to pay no more than two pounds. If that sounds too good to be true, it isn’t. It’s just one of the many joys of buying straight from the source.
For the environmentally aware consumer, looking to cut down carbon emissions and support local farmers, this is the perfect way to buy your vegetables. No money goes on hauling massive food-laden lorries across the country, and you can be sure your produce is fresh.