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Summer At Spitalfields City Farm

August 20, 2021
by the gentle author

The third of four features in collaboration with Contributing Photographer Rachel Ferriman, documenting the seasons of the year at Spitalfields City Farm

Despite the cold spring, this has been a good summer for soft fruit at Spitalfields City Farm, especially peaches, damsons and mulberries. Now that life is back after the long lonely winter of lockdown, local families have been visiting the animals and enjoying this precious rural enclave at the heart of the metropolis again.

I was especially gratified to learn that the avian flu which caused a lockdown for the poultry in the spring has gone, and to encounter the two Buff Orpington chicks born then as fully grown roosters.

Sam Sweeting, one of the farm managers, kindly took me on a stroll around the territory in between the showers and explained what has been going on this summer.

“We’ve had all seasons this week. We were a bit worried by that monsoon because the pig’s pen started to flood, so we all stayed on site to take care of the animals until the rain stopped. But our gardens have really taken off and we have all these sunflowers that we never planted – they just popped up from seeds in the compost!

The muck heap is full to overflowing, it has been sitting for maybe four months and had a fox den in it. One of the big tasks for our corporate volunteers from the City will be to empty it out and spread the manure around. A lot of the corporates are still working from home, so it is really great opportunity for them to able to see each other in person this way.

We got phone calls about a chicken that was out on the street, asking if it was one of ours but it wasn’t. When we were still getting the calls over a week later, we thought, ‘Wow, this is a tough chicken surviving on the East End streets.’ We adopted him and he came to live at the farm, but he was a bit edgy so one of the volunteers gave him Reiki for a while. We named him ‘Frosties.’

When we reopened there were queues down the street and we have been very busy since then. People are so happy to have somewhere to take their children, to be outdoors and see the animals again. Many have strong relationships with the farm animals and we have some local families that come every day. Over the years, you see children growing up at the farm. We had a difficult period over the winter, but we have come through and there’s a lot more energy and some fantastic new volunteers.”

Now the trees are covered with leaves and heavy with fruit, and the flowers and vegetables have grown tall, vegetation enfolds the farm and there is a sense of being transported when you step through the gate. On hot summer afternoons, the animals seek shelter in the green shade and the life of the farmyard is stilled. All is peaceful. Despite the occasional city tower visible through the greenery, it is nature that prevails here.

Boni with some of the peaches that she and Tessa picked

Holmes the kune kune pig takes the shade

Holmes enjoys a siesta

A cardoon – the stems are edible


Tanya harvesting the mulberries

Bella the farm cat

Sam picking salad leaves

Jenny with one of the Buff Orpington chicks, hatched in April

A Purple Rain potato

Black tomatoes

The goats on their way home, back to the farm yard from the field where they spend sunny days

The sheep return to their pen at the end of the day

Mirabelle plums hang heavy on the tree

Photographs copyright © Rachel Ferriman

You may also like to take a look at 

Winter At Spitalfields City Farm

Spring At Spitalfields City Farm

7 Responses leave one →
  1. August 20, 2021

    Fabulous photography Rachel! I especially loved “sheep returning to their pen”.

  2. August 20, 2021

    You can see it in the animals’ faces how comfortable they feel here. A paradise in the middle of London.

    Love & Peace

  3. August 20, 2021

    Wonderful images. I didn’t know about the Spitalfields City Farm. I especially liked the thought of chickens having Reiki. Thank you for sharing this lovely story.

  4. August 20, 2021

    I love the light in these photographs. And so good that families can get out and enjoy the outdoors again. The farm looks like a great place to visit.

  5. Kelly Holman permalink
    August 20, 2021

    Such a joyous, life affirming piece. I felt I could walk into the photos and almost taste the peaches.

  6. Ann V permalink
    August 20, 2021

    It truly is a little bit of paradise in the middle of London. Beautiful!

  7. August 23, 2021

    Thanks for all the lovely comments on my photos included on this story, it’s such a lovely place to visit and a wonderful community in East London!

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