Saturday, June 21, 2008

Mudchute Farm

The first time I rode on the Docklands Light Railway (a.k.a. the DLR, to the cool kids), I noticed two things: (1) the trains have no drivers, which means that you can sit at the very front and pretend to drive, and (2) there is a stop on the DLR called 'Mudchute'. Compared to some of the other funny UK place names (e.g., Dorking, Penistone, Wetwang, Fingringhoe, and the list goes on), Mudchute is pretty tame. But I still find it funny that a name as singularly unappealing as Mudchute would stick. Hey kids, pack your bags, we're moving to Mudchute!

Mudchute and the Isle of Dogs

To be fair, I come from a country with towns such as Boring, Oregon, Hot Coffee, Mississippi, and Humptulips, Washington, not to mention Intercourse, Pennsylvania. Maggie and I even got married in a town called Volcano (which is nowhere near an actual volcano). So I really have no leg to stand on when I mock British place names. Plus, with the exception of one misguided trip to the ASDA (Wallmart UK) near Mudchute, I had never actually gone to Mudchute, so I shouldn't have judged prematurely.

Mudchute got its name because there was literally a mud chute for depositing silt dredged from the Thames for the docks. Despite the name and the muddy past, Mudchute is actually fairly charming, particularly compared to the sterile glass and steel soullessness of the nearby Canary Wharf financial district. The hilly look to the area derives from the piles of deposited silt now covered in grass and shrubs; the charm comes from the lovely Mudchute Park and Farm.

Mudchute Kitchen

One of the London foodie blogs we read regularly, Tasty Treats, turned us on to Mudchute Kitchen, the restaurant at the farm. Unless you've been to Mudchute Farm, you would never guess this type of place could exist in London, much less right next to Canary Wharf. Given the promise of delicious homemade food at Mudchute Kitchen and the chance to say hello to all of the animals on the surrounding farm, we had to go check it out. Before we went, Maggie noticed that the website of the farm had a picture of children petting sheep, and Maggie has always dreamt of being able to pet a sheep. Hey, a girl can dream.

Grazing cows and office buildings

Mama and Baaaby

After a nice lunch at Mudchute Kitchen (good food, nice homey atmosphere, fabulous pastries), we went out wandering amongst the animals. We were lucky to be there during lamb season, so a bunch of preposterously adorable little lambs were awkwardly gamboling about in the fields. The goats were cute (although I secretly think all goats are jerks), the turkey was wandering around looking cool, and the pigs were lazily snoozing in the shade. We went from pen to pen looking at the animals, but we couldn't find anywhere to pet sheep.

My fellow American

Gloucester Old Spot pigs keeping cool

When we had made our way through the farm, we emerged out into the open grass of Mudchute Park, where, much to our surprise, we finally found our quarry. Some of the animals are allowed to roam freely around the park, including a small herd of cows and some amazingly woolly sheep hiding in the shade of some trees. The mixture of sunbathing and picnicking people, grazing animals, and massive office towers in the background is quite a surreal but pleasant thing to find in the heart of London.

Shady sheep

We approached the sheep slowly and quietly, thinking they would get spooked and run away if we got too close. These sheep were clearly used to humans, and they were undisturbed by our presence. In fact, a few even slowly started moving towards us while continuing to munch on grass. People probably feed them all sorts of things that sheep shouldn't eat, so I think the sheep were hoping we had some chips or a piece of bacon roll for them. Either way, they were totally happy for us to walk right up and pet them.

Maggie's new friend

If you've never pet a sheep (we can't be alone in this, right?), they are amazingly soft but dense. The wool is so tightly packed that the amount on just one sheep must weigh an incredible amount. I'm sure they're used to it, but a wearing a 4 inch thick wool coat in the summer doesn't sound like my idea of fun - it makes me think that shearing a sheep might actually be doing them a favor.

Maggie living the dream

Beautiful park, lots of nice animals (including pettable sheep), delicious coffee cake and fresh lemonade, friendly people, and all this in easy access from our flat - we'll definitely be back soon. Plus Maggie has made a few new friends that we'll have to visit from time to time.


cabernet said...

I wanna go there, too! Maybe I need to extend my visit 'til you two get sick of me and just kick me out...

Doug said...