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Best of British: Pick your own

BY Fiona Hicks

1st Jan 2015 Travel

Best of British: Pick your own

Summer is here, and what better way to spend it than gathering fresh fruit and vegetables? Here’s where you should go…

Stonepitts Farm, Kent

stonepitts farm, Kent

This farm has been firmly on the rural map since the late 19th century when it was a successful fruit and hops growing enterprise and farmers would send their produce up to the London markets by the fastest horse-drawn transport.

Fast-forward to 1960 and it once again accrued a sterling reputation—this time for being one of the UK’s first pick-your-own farms. Soft fruit is what Stonepitts does best, with six varieties of strawberries and three varieties of raspberries to choose from.

If you’re not sure which are best, fear not—the staff here are knowledgeable and will be able to tell you which should be enjoyed fresh, which can be frozen or which should be made into jam. They’re also delighted to share recipes and have a particularly good one for strawberry ice cream.

 

The Balloon Tree, Yorkshire

balloon tree, yorkshire

Named after a majestic horse chestnut tree that stood at the turning to the site, this family-run business started out as a humble wooden hut and table at the side of the road. Their motto was “Fewer Food Miles—More Farm Yards”, which meant that food was sold straight from the field. 

It’s a motto and a philosophy that remains today—even though the understated table has now given way to a large and lively farm shop. Most of the food is dug up mere hours (and sometimes minutes) before appearing on their shelves, or on plates in their popular cafe.

There’s also a punnet point near the shop with a map of a pick-your-own trail, showing what’s available that day. Expect classic berries, along with peas, plums and broad beans… and even pumpkins for Halloween.

 

Clive's Fruit Farm, Worcestershire

Cider

This family-run farm is a dream for apple aficionados. Some of the award-winning varieties on offer include Cox, Royal Gala, Braeburn, Howergate Wonders and Herefordshire Russet—all available to hand-select from the trees or ready-picked in the enormous fruit bins. The orchards, of course, are at their best in the autumn, but you can stock up on strawberries, raspberries and cherries and plums in the meantime.

No visit here is complete without a perusal of the farm shop. With a tantalizing array of condiments, the best Scotch eggs for miles around, as well as “Clive’s Wobblejuice Cider” available to buy straight from the barrel, it’s a real foodie haven. There’s also a butchers—so you can buy some sausages to go with your home-made apple sauce.

 

Cairnie Farm, Fife

strawberries from fife

This farm (another family-run success) has won a plethora of awards, namely the Countryside Alliance Award for Best Rural Enterprise and the 2014 Agricultural Business of the Year. And yet—while pondering its vibrantly green rows of fruit plants, staggering views and sunflowers that seem to be smiling—nothing about it feels remotely business-like.

Each year, the local landmark is filled with pickers meandering through the rows, sipping smoothies in the tea room or selecting pre-picked punnets in the light and airy farm shop. Soft fruit is their real specialty, including cherries—which are surprisingly rare in the world of pick-your-own.

Self-titled “farmer’s wife” and co-owner Cameron Laird says, “We’re the oldest family-run pick-your-own enterprise in Scotland. As well as the 20 acres of fruit, there’s a six-acre Maize Maze and outdoor funyard to explore.” The latter reaches its full height next month and is bound to keep energetic youngsters entertained all day.

 

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