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Woodlands Farm in Welling on the up

PUBLISHED: 13:06 02 November 2012

Woodlands

Woodlands

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It's hard to believe that two decades ago Woodlands Farm in Welling was perilously close to shutting down.

A cow at Woodlands FarmA cow at Woodlands Farm

Now it is a thriving city farm, thanks to The Woodlands Farm Trust, which was formed in 1997 to stave off the threat of closure.

The farm has come through some hard times to get to where it is today. It was first threatened with extinction in 1983 when a development company planned to build a motorway link across the site, to be called the East London River Crossing.

A decade-long battle saw the scheme dropped in 1993 after massive opposition from campaign group People Against the River Crossing (PARC).

Woodlands lay derelict for more than a decade but when planning permission for houses was submitted, protest groups sought to save the land and set up the Woodlands Trust to regenerate the farm.

Farm manager David Jones with George the BoarFarm manager David Jones with George the Boar

It is now the country’s largest city farm and is open six days a week.

Manager David Jones says Woodlands plays an important role in the community.

“Many of our visitors aren’t used to such a rural setting. We teach people about where their food comes from because many don’t have much knowledge about that.”

There is more to Woodlands than the obvious delight of seeing ducks, sheep, pigs, ponies, goats and a cow named Dolly.

David describes the hay meadows which stretch into the grounds as “probably the biggest in north Kent”.

The farm works with many conservation programmes, including hedge-laying and growing a heritage orchard which produces rare apple varieties.

Wherever possible it tries to get community groups, schools, volunteers and businesses involved to bridge the town and country divide.

A lot of these activities are aimed at children and it has an excellent education centre and a toddler club which meets most Thursdays.

Education officer Hannah Forshaw said: “The farm is very important for the community, especially the children. I’m in charge of all school visits and everything educational to do with the farm, and it’s a great job. I really enjoy it because the children really enjoy it.”

Woodlands strives to be organic wherever possible and sells its own meat and produce, almost as if it is transporting visitors to the country.

Hannah added: “A lot of the children I see have never been on a farm before and Woodlands is a very authentic experience because we’re a working farm.

“Children can get involved in various tasks around the site, such as making hay, and practise milking a cow.

“It’s a really good opportunity for them to get their hands dirty.”

Woodlands Farm is open from 9.30am to 4.30pm on Tuesdays to Sundays.

It is free to get in (except for special events) but donations are greatly appreciated.

For more information call 020 8319 8900 or email woodlandsft@aol.com.

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