The weather has been rather spring like recently so I thought I should try out my new walking boots and looked on line to see what was happening nearby to where I live in South East London. I discovered that The Woodland Farm Trust had a guided walk scheduled for Sunday 19th March so I donned the above mentioned walking boots and headed off. This venue is about a 30 minute walk away from me and I have to say, although I have walked and driven past it on the A207 numerous times, I had never really paid much attention to it. What a little hidden gem it is though!
This 89 acre city farm is run mainly by volunteers and as you enter through the large farm gate you feel like you have suddenly stepped into a scene more fitting for the wilds of Dorset or Devon. You are greeted by the true sounds of the country, the bleating of the sheep (it is nearly lambing time and the pregnant ewes have all been brought into a large barn to await their deliveries!) and the lowing of the cows. Woodlands Farm does not have many cows but the ones they have are very inquisitive and very vocal. There is another barn where I found an enormous pig in one stall and a couple of female sheep with their lambs who were now about 2 weeks old. There was another closed barn which is obviously “the maternity ward” as this was for the ewes who had just given birth and, quite rightly, we were asked not to enter there. One of the volunteers was carefully scrutinising the ewes to see if any births were imminent, unfortunately none were forthcoming whilst I was on the premises!
Our guide leader ushered us into one of the educational buildings that the schools use and gave us a map, some details about plants we might see and also a magnifying glass each! (I am not sure if the later was because we were all of a certain age or whether we were just going to be looking for very small plants!)
After a tour round the barns we headed off into the woods and our guide was incredibly informative about all the trees, hedges and plants we saw. The Farm stands on the site of the old Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society Farm and Abattoir. The concrete floor from the old abattoir is now used to store the cow manure and there are still a couple of very old lampposts standing which used to light up the route to the abattoir. It was difficult to retain all the interesting facts that our Guide told us but I do remember that he showed us Alder trees that, when wet, go stone hard and this is what they use in places like Venice where they need wood that will not rot. After the woods we walked through the pasture where the sheep usually graze and the meadow where they grow the grass for hay.
The walk took about 2 hours and they are held very regularly (look on their web site). I would imagine that it is very different at different times of year.I will definitely be going back! They also have special events like the upcoming Mad Hatters Teaparty and the East Egg Trail. There is no charge for the regular walks but there are donation boxes all over the Farm as this is a conservation and education project and is not self sufficient. It is open from 9.30-4.30 Tuesday to Sunday and if you live in South East London it is well worth a visit. It would be great to take the grand kids to but it is also incredibly interesting for us older people.
At the end of the walk there was tea and biscuits for us all…and my new walking boots passed their first outing without causing any blisters!