Winning tip: Punnet paradise, near Edinburgh
On a cycling tour of Scotland last year, the alluring aroma of fragrant fields full of strawberries, drifting up a hill, caused me to pause my pedalling and follow my nose. It was an excellent decision. The well-signposted Craigie’s Farm, at South Queensferry near Edinburgh, beckoned me towards an array of fruits as sustenance for my cycling. I filled up on raspberries and cherries and took veg too for the camp later. There’s also a lovely farm shop and little cafe where I sat sipping tea, contemplating which of my picks to eat first – almost reluctant to get back on the saddle.
Greenhouse bash, West Sussex
Oh, to Spring Gardens Nursery in Pulborough, West Sussex, you must go! Close to the South Downs, this gem of a place is small enough to enjoy with young children, but big enough to offer a fantastic checklist of seasonal fruits, vegetables and flowers to pick (free entry, pay for what you pick). The farm shop and cafe sell and serve delicious food and drinks, and the recently opened fairy-lit Gooseberry House hosts sellout supper clubs featuring still and sparkling Sussex wines. It’s one of my favourite places to go.
Veg out, North Yorkshire
Balloon Tree farm in Gate Helmsley, east of York, is the best place I know for PYO. It has a huge variety of fruit and veg, acres of strawberries, blueberries and raspberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants, gooseberries and peas. The highlight of the autumn is pumpkin picking, complete with wheelbarrows and scarecrows. The farm grows plenty of other produce that can be bought in the farm shop, and boasts a fabulous cafe serving home-cooked meals and cakes to tempt you further.
Sunflowers for Ukraine, Wiltshire
Amid the beautiful Wiltshire Downs, The Farm at Avebury is selling its sunflowers with proceeds going to a combination of local schools, preschools and Ukraine Crisis Appeal. The children loved getting lost among the enormous stems and the parents snapped away making the most cheerful shots for the family album. The farm’s next charity pick your own Sunflower morning on 6 August.
Play gooseberry, Shropshire
Delightful family-run Woore Fruit Farm, at the nexus of Shropshire, Staffordshire and Cheshire, has fruit to be picked from gooseberries in spring to strawberries, loganberries, raspberries, blackcurrants, and later, pumpkins for Halloween. Rest for a cuppa at the cafe, which also has local Snugburys ice-cream. The shop sells delectable wildflowers picked from the farm along with eggs from its free-running chickens. Perfect for a summer’s day.
Top crop, north London
The Parkside Pick Your Own Farm near Enfield is great for harvesting mouthwatering strawberries, blackberries and raspberries. There’s also a good range of vegetables: sweetcorn, courgettes and french beans. Book online for £4 a head and redeem the price against your picked veg and fruit.
Let them eat cake, Northamptonshire
Grange Farm Harpole is a family-run business with a little cafe selling homemade cakes, ice-cream, tea and coffee. It also has an excellent maize maze and some very friendly pigs. The fruit is flavoursome and juicy, and the farm is in a beautiful location.
Dahlia fantasia, Surrey
At Garson’s farm in Esher, the bountiful and sumptuous strawberries and raspberries are favourites, but you can also pick sweetcorn, carrots, courgettes, beetroots, apples, cherries and plums. It also has pick-your-own flowers – sunflowers and dahlias aplenty. Tickets are £4 for farm entry, which is refunded against the price of your produce. If all that picking tires you out, there’s a lovely cafe and to rejuvenate in and a fantastic garden centre to browse.