Somehow, despite the juice stains and paying-to-do-manual-labour, picking one’s own fruit / flowers / veg is unassailably charming. So dust off the broad-brimmed straw hats, grab the children and head to the fields.
We love a bit of wholesome rural fun here at Muddy and — as luck would have it — there are a fair few PYO farms to choose from. Time to break out your inner Milly-Molly-Mandy, clear out some fridge space, and pick some darned delicious in-season fruit. (Just remember to save a punnet to settle down and watch some fabulous tennis – essential sofa snacks for that true Wimbledon experience.)
Rectory Farm, Stanton St John, near Oxford
Rectory Farm is the biggie in our ‘hood for hand-picked punnets. With 45 picturesque acres to play with, you can pick a range of fruit, vegetables and flowers here, though asparagus and strawberries are the big players. New for this year is a family veg patch with carrots, beetroot, green beans and more. It’s free to go and you only pay for what you pick which will, no doubt, be less than what you eat as you do the rounds (officially, of course, we would never take more than the odd sample). The farm requests that you bring your own containers if possible, and have them weighed beforehand. Then don’t miss out on the well-stocked farm shop and excellent café.
Millets Farm Centre, near Abingdon
Though picking your own at Millets Farm isn’t free, the rather reasonable £1.50 entry is redeemable against any fruit purchased, which here is either raspberries or strawberries. Come August there will also be the opportunity to PYO sunflowers, and – new for this year- a dahlia farm! But in the meantime there’s plenty else to do on the farm: play areas, a carousel, petting animals, a garden centre and a farm shop. If you’re feeling peckish, there’s both the Farmhouse Kitchen and the Flower Garden Café providing freshly cooked, seasonal snacks and meals. Note: you need a ticket for PYO, and booking ahead is advisable.
Q Gardens Farm, near Abingdon
Things are pretty stripped back at Q Gardens Farm — as they put it, “we are simply a hut in a field” — but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a great day out. Currently available to pick are two varieties of strawberries at £5.50 a punnet, and it won’t be long until the raspberries and cherries are out in full force, followed by blackberries, plums, damsons, and greengages. The farm shop just across the road is stocked with high quality local produce, including a fine display of deli pies to eat now or take home.
Copas Farm (Calves Lane Farm), near Iver
Copas Farm is another big boy in the PYO world, with branches in Bucks and Berks apiece. PYO costs £4, to be refunded against the weight of the produce you’ve picked — strawberries and raspberries at the minute, and soon to be cherries. There is also a farm shop on site selling homemade apple juice, local honey, chutneys, cream, and eggs. Langley Country Park is just next door, so make a day of it with a picturesque wander through ‘Capability’ Brown grounds, followed by homemade cake in the park’s tearoom.
Medley Manor Farm, Oxford
Based in Binsey in Oxford, this small family-run farm offers a wide range of seasonal fruits and vegetables for PYO. Runner beans, carrots, new potatoes, gooseberries, strawberries, and more are all up for grabs. During the PYO season, the farm also has a cute café selling a selection of homemade cakes, cookies, and scones. Best of all? It’s very close to central Oxford, if you wanted to top it all off with a bit of urban culture (or a shopping spree, perhaps?).
Grove Farm, near Aylesbury
Just on the border with Beds, this farm has just opened for the PYO season, boasting 80 acres and over 30 different fruits and vegetables to pick, though currently the focus is strawberries. There’s no need to book ahead, and you pay £5.50 for a punnet to fill or £15 for a 6 lb box. The farm is near the impressive Ivinghoe Beacon, which promises epic panoramic views if you hike to the top.
Howe Farm Flowers, near Thame
PYO isn’t just about fruit: at Howe Farm in Dorton you can pick your own beautiful bouquets of seasonal flowers, all hand-sown and sustainably nurtured. Available from April-October, visitors can either simply spend an hour picking blooms in lovely zinc buckets (£20), or upgrade to include a pot of tea and homemade cake in the garden once the buckets are full, for £55. Booking ahead is essential for both.
Green and Gorgeous Flowers, near Wallingford
Passionate about the environment, Green and Gorgeous Flowers grows a range of classic, nostalgic and unusual flower varieties in a sustainable manner, meaning the farm hums with insect and bird life. Drop in on Saturdays between 9am and 4pm to PYO, and also pick up vegetables, fruit, eggs, seeds, plants and even local hand-thrown pottery from the shop.
HAVE CHARMING BASKET, WILL TRAVEL
Lotmead Farm, over the border into Wilts, near Swindon
Grays Farm, Wokingham, Berks
Hildred’s PYO, near Reading, Berks