Week off (Sunday): Woodlands Farm
At the foot of Shooters Hill, opposite Oxleas Wood, lies Inner London's largest farm. Although run by volunteers it's a proper working farm, with acres of hayfields, orchards and animals, while school groups and other organisations are also welcomed. And half a dozen times a year they fling wide the gates and welcome in the wider community, including Mid-October for the Apple Fair, which was held yesterday. You could tell it was on because cars were parked the full length of the hill, making it difficult for buses to pass, such is the attraction of this family-friendly event. The event was delighting children of all ages, wandering through the farmyard to meet Bob the Shetland pony and Bella the saddleback pig, queueing for archery or gulping down candyfloss. They know how to pack out their sheds with stalls at Woodlands Farm, one with a timely focus on rare apples and crushed juice, another more artsy-craftsy. But in what looked like a classroom I was slightly unnerved when a man pressed into my hand a small advert for the farm's freezer-ready lamb, which I think I'd just seen gambolling in a pen outside.
As well as umpteen temporary goings-on it was good to poke around various back corners, like the hayfield and pond, to discover informative panels for educational use. But halfway up one lane a gate was firmly padlocked, a gate I recognised as a sore point of contention in a long-term access battle. The Green Chain footpath passes through the farm, or is supposed to, but Woodlands Farm contest that a right of way exists, citing vandalism on their premises as a reason to bar passage. The Inner London Ramblers insist the path through the meadow should be opened up (it's lovely, I walked it unfettered back in 2007), while the Trust remain vehemently against, and an angry stalemate continues. Should you want to explore the farm from the right side of the gate, the next similar extravaganza is the Christmas Fair on 6th December, or maybe you could just pop in for some eggs or kindling next time you're passing.