July is an ideal month for visiting a local farm and pick your own fruit or vegetable. We had a fantastic day out picking strawberries at Sharnfold Farm in East Sussex.
Pick your own fruit is an excellent activity to do with children in July. There are more types of fruit in the season like raspberries, tayberries, cherries but the queen of all has to be strawberry. It wouldn't be proper summer (and Wimbledon) without sweet juicy strawberries, would it?
If you live in a flat or house with a small garden or no garden at all there is nothing better than visiting a nearby farm in the countryside to show children a little bit of farm life.
Many farms grow strawberries and offer to Pick Your Own (PYO) fruit. It is much more fun for children to collect fruit than put packaged strawberries in a plastic pot into the trolly in the shop.
How many opportunities do our children truly have to learn about the seasons and how fruit and vegetables are growing when supermarkets give them the wrong impression that everything is available all year round? So unless you are lucky enough to have an allotment or grandparents that have a good-sized plot with a vegetable patch your kids won't learn much about nature and seasons that once used to be an everyday part of people's lives.
As we live on the coast in East Sussex we searched for some local strawberry growers and we didn't have to look very far. One of the top results with good reviews that pops up in the search for East Sussex is Sharnfold farm.
So one sunny Saturday morning, we got our own containers for collecting the fruit ready, applied lots of suncream, didn't forget sun hats and left the house excited to pick our own strawberries as well as looking forward to spending our afternoon walking around the farmland.
Sharnfold farm is a lovely place located in Stone Cross on the edge of Eastbourne. As you can see from their website they offer a combination of activities and premises that will keep you and your kids busy for a good few hours. They have their award-winning farm shop and butcher counter, coffee shop, playground, farm trail, fields and plots where you can PYO and a lake offering fishing. There isn't an entrance fee (you have to pay for fishing though).
The turn to the farm is clearly marked with a big sign. You'll be able to see it as soon as you pass Holly Blue Pevensey pub on the left-hand side (driving towards Hailsham). They have a good size parking area with some shaded parking spots under the trees that we found handy on the hot summer day.
The first thing you will be able to spot is the entrance to the farm shop. If you get there to do some PYO this is where you need to stop to check their board (located on the left-hand side from the main entrance) with information on what is available to pick and prices.
I remember they use to have plastic containers in front of the shop for anyone to grab in the past. As a positive move towards reducing single-use plastic, the shop will now give you a container for a small deposit, that will be taken off the PYO fruit price. If you bring your own containers, as we did, let the shop assistant weigh them before you start picking so they can correctly weigh your fruit later.
If you want to come only for PYO and you are not interested in any other activities it's best to give the farm a call and find out if your desired fruit or veg is available.
Finding a plot with PYO fruit can be great fun. It's like a little adventure where you have to follow signs pointing you in the right direction. Strawberries weren't far and we quickly found them but we went on an expedition that took us around a few farm fields to find a raspberry plot and our boys loved it.
PYO is great fun for the whole family. The boys were competing who was going to find the biggest strawberry which proved itself a great challenge. The strawberries available that day were rather small and their numbers limited. That's how it is with fruit. It doesn't always have the ideal size and perfect shape but the taste of the strawberries was priceless.
You may end up getting some crops you didn't plan for like we did. Our boys got interested in the beetroot that just happened to be on the way to the raspberries. They were really excited about the idea of pulling it out the ground like in the story about Enormous Turnip but they quickly found out they didn't need any help as the beetroot was an average size.
Eventually, once we were happy with our harvest of strawberries, raspberries and one 'enormous' beetroot, then we turned back to the farm shop.
The farm shop won Sussex Food Shop of the Year in 2016. They have an outstanding selection of local products to be proud of. Through the farm shop, there is a small coffee shop with a few tables inside and more seating options outdoors.
We were starving after all that fruit hunting so we ordered some food, cakes and coffee and sat by one of the big wooden picnic tables in the playground. Seagulls were eagerly watching us, waiting for their chance but we didn't give them any opportunities.
The boys especially enjoyed the potatoes skins with sausages and the chocolate brownies were simply outstanding. The food certainly gave the boys more energy to play in the playground where the tractor attracted most of their attention. We were considering to take them for a walk and try the farm trail but we felt like it would be a stretch that could turn pleasant happy boys into two horrid Henries.
So as our last stop, we saw the farm pigs that aren't that far from the playground and called it a day.
As you can see from our pictures we had a fantastic time at the farm.
For me, the best part was simply to walk around with the nice blue sky above our heads and a gentle breeze rustling through the trees. The bees were buzzing and butterflies flying around. It was all very calming... at least for a few moments before our kids ran pass us like a hurricane.
The boys enjoyed the PYO and they would like to do it again. However, the highlight for them was the tractor in the playground and the food.
My husband was very keen on the shop where he found many interesting ingredients he would like to try for his cooking experiments. The first on the list is their amazing selection of flours. He almost bought 3 different types for his bread-making adventures but we first have to finish our reserves at home before we buy more.
Sharnfold farm, thank you for having us, we'll be back for some more farm fun soon. We still need to explore the farm trail, do more fruit picking and the boys would like to try some fishing too.
- free entry
- the shop
- chocolate brownies
- reducing single-use plastic
A few things I'd like to change:
- the coffee shop would benefit from an interior refresh or different style
- single-use cups for water (coffee shop) could be replaced
- brick and brack toys for kids in the shop are expensive and they don’t suit the 'organic and local produce' style
How much did we spend:
- entry - free
- PYO - £ 6.80 (strawberries, raspberries and a beetroot)
- food - £ 27.20 (baguette, potatoe skings, victoria sponge, fruit scone, 2x chocolate brownies, 2x can of lemonade, 2x black coffee)
Total cost: £ 34