Winning tip: Strawberry Fields, Lifton, Devon
Let me take you down … to the cream of the crop, an 81-hectare (200-acre) slice of Devon heaven on the banks of the River Lyd, where you’ll discover life isn’t a bowl of cherries … it’s actually a punnet of strawberries. Nestled on the doorstep of Wooladon Estate and known locally as Lifton’s Strawberry Fields, you can berry pick here to your heart’s content among hay bales decorated as Peter Rabbit and novelty scarecrows that would give Worzel a run for his money. The farm also offers PYO apples and pears, and miniature picnic tables stacked high with pasties and pastries, that make you feel like Gulliver in Lilliput. It’s £1.50 a booking slot for PYO and from £7.50 per 1kg.
Hawkswick Lodge Farm, Hertfordshire
Hawkswick Lodge is a tiny, family-run fruit farm on the outskirts of St Albans. It may be small, but it is mighty when it comes to the range of soft fruits you can pick here. Three types of strawberry include the musically named sonata and jive varieties; four types of blackberries, including the supersize Karaka; plus raspberries, gooseberries, blackcurrants and redcurrants. They have embraced the “no mow” philosophy with patches of wild grasses, buttercups and clover that attract bumblebees, as well as peacock and small tortoiseshell butterflies that sunbathe on the paths. The farm has delayed opening because of recent poor weather but says the berries as a result should taste extra sweet this year.
Steve Harris, Hampshire
The Titchfield area has been a hub for strawberries since Victorian times. We’ve been going to Steve Harris since we were kids, for pick-your-own strawberries (from £2.50 per small punnet). It also has PYO raspberries and sunflowers, as well as pumpkins in autumn. The location is a great stop en route to Meon Shore, to consume your pickings on the sunny (or not so sunny) beach.
Hill Farm, Cambridgeshire
Just a few miles south-west of Peterborough, near Chesterton, is Hill Farm, so-named because you have to go up a steep hill to reach it. At the top is a great view of the surrounding flat scenery. The farm shop has ready-picked fruit and veg plus other essentials, like cream, and homemade chunks of sponge cake to have with a cuppa, while the kids enjoy the playground and throw a ball for the farm sheepdogs. Of course there are several varieties of strawberries, plus fruit for your summer pudding, not to mention the rows of majestic sweetcorn later in the season. The fun ends at Halloween, when the pumpkins are ready – great orange orbs waiting for the knife.
Craigie’s Farm, Queensferry, Edinburgh
I love Craigie’s Farm. Along with strawberries, it has wonderful raspberries, cherry trees, blackberries, currants, and delicious veg, and has an October pumpkin season too. A couple of summers ago I visited while nine months pregnant, then again the following year with my one-year old-daughter, who ate her body weight in strawberries. I’m especially looking forward to going this summer once the fruit is in season, as they’ve recently opened up an adorable looking farm-themed play area for kids too, next to their delightful cafe and farm shop. I’m so looking forward to continuing our tradition this year too.
Medley Manor Farm, Oxford
My favourite pick-your-own farm is surprisingly and conveniently located a short walk from central Oxford. I keep my eye on the sign at the end of the lane announcing which produce is ripe, and counting down the days until the raspberries are ready. As well as picking your own, you can enjoy fruit ready picked and baked into tempting cakes at the weekend cafe. This year they’ve also opened a beautiful riverside beer garden currently offering cocktails made with farm-grown rhubarb.
Parkside Farm, Enfield, London
Parkside Farm is close to where we live and has been run by the same family since 1938. The PYO area is nearly 20 hectares, with not just strawberries and other fruits but also vegetables like beans, beetroot, marrows, sweetcorn, etc. There is ample space for parking and it also has a farm shop that sells ice-creams, drinks and more. It is always like a fun day trip when we visit.
Woore Fruit Farm, near Crewe
I love to take the kids to Woore Fruit Farm. Open from May to October, there are delights to be had including strawberries, apples, tayberries, pumpkins, etc. I like my children to know where their food comes from and they love to fill their baskets and plan to make pies, sorbets and fruit salads when they get home – although they always eat a good chunk before any plans are enacted. My tip is to not just see fruit farms as a place to pick strawberries in August but to go across all their opening months, as you get much more there than just strawberries.
Roundstone Farm, Angmering, West Sussex
Fresh air, fruit and family fun. When the children were little, they loved stomping up and down the rows, learning valuable lessons about nature and the problem of thorns. As young adults they still ask for family trips to fill bags and boxes with soft fruits of summer and autumn’s plums and pumpkins. Everything’s grown in environmentally friendly ways and you can walk to all the fields, although the tractor ride is welcome when bags get heavy; which they do, because we always pick too much. But hey, that’s what freezers are for!
Saffery farm, near Selling, Kent
A wonderful, scenic place where you can pick fresh berries. Just a few miles down the road is Perry Wood, where you can munch them in beautiful woodlands on top of a hill with panoramic views. Important note: when paying at the PYO, remember to wipe the juice from your face.