by Madeleine Howell, The Telegraph, October 2, 2017
Pumpkins are a member of the squash family (Curcubita). First cultivated across the Atlantic, they were brought to us by intrepid explorers. Now, they’ve become synonymous with autumn and are grown all over the UK. Helpfully, we’ve scouted out the best places to pick one of your very own...
Farmer Copley’s in West Yorkshire promises to present the UK’s largest pumpkin festival over the weekends of 7-8 and 14-15 October, and half term, 21-29 October. There will be more than 120,000 pumpkins both ‘warty’ and smooth, in a rainbow of red, green, white, blue, black, yellow, mixed and, of course, orange. You can also take advantage of the Farm Shop, the Moo Cafe and the famous Beast Restaurant.
The Spookley Pumpkin Festival returns to Farrington’s Farm Shop this autumn for a second year. There you can pick from thousands of home-grown pumpkins, carve the spookiest of shapes and sample seasonal pumpkin dishes.
Pumpkin Day at the Riverford Organic Farm is legendary for its children’s activities, farm tours, pumpkin carving and seasonal food - and with good reason. This year, it falls on Saturday October 28 at Devon’s Wash Farm. Riverford is also organising pumpkin celebrations at Home Farm in North Yorkshire, Upper Norton Farm in Hampshire and at Sacrewell Farm in Cambridgeshire.
In Devon, Shute Fruit and Produce is also well worth a visit. As well as pumpkins, they have an abundance of 'Harlequin', 'Crown Prince' and 'Kabocha' squashes, marrows, courgettes and sloes for gin.
Crockbridge Farm in Weybridge is Surrey’s go-to destination for a huge selection of home-grown pumpkins. There's also themed fun and games galore at the perennially popular 'I-Scream Parlour', plus apple bobbing and face painting in the ‘Creepy Tepee’.
Also in Surrey, you’ll find Secretts, where you can take a tractor ride out to the pumpkin patch. Established in 1908, this farm hosts an annual pumpkin week in the school half term before Halloween. Last year, 30,000 pumpkins were grown from 12,000 plants.
There’s also a mini tractor play area, a hay stack play area, face painting, and biscuit decorating. Refreshments (of course) include pumpkin soup, pumpkin curry and pumpkin cake. Surrey seems to have rather a glut of pumpkins: Garsons Farm in Esher also offers pick your own pumpkins over 150 acres of land.
For every pumpkin picked and bought at Lester Farm in Ashford, Kent, a portion of the proceeds are donated to The Pilgrims Hospice and Our Hero Draven. The pumpkins are priced according to size: £1 for ‘bat’ sized (up to 18cm), £2 for ‘witch’ sized (up to 24cm), £3 for ‘goblin’ sized (up to 27cm) and £4 for a whopping ‘monster’ over over 27cm.
From 14 October 2017 Kenyon Hall Farm in Warrington will be hosting its annual pumpkin festival. It’s free to visit the pumpkin patch, and you pay for your pumpkin according to size (expect it to cost anything from £2 to £15). There’s a carving station and plenty of opportunities to eat, drink and shop all things pumpkin.
Hendrewennol is a farm in the Vale of Glamorgan in South Wales that offers both pumpkin picking and pick your own daffodil bulbs in October. There’s a cafe and a shop, and plenty of family fun to be had in this rustic setting.
Travaskis Farm near Hayle in Cornwall offers free admission to pumpkin pickers, set amid 28 acres of countryside. It’s open from 8am until 7pm every day.
More than 11,150 seeds and eight different varieties of pumpkins, squashes and gourds have been planted at Cattow’s Farm, a 300 acre working farm in Leicestershire. You can pick your own throughout October, and they also have an excellent tea room and a farm shop brimming with fresh seasonal produce.
Sussex County Strawberry Farm also grows and sells a wide variety of pumpkins including gourds, 'White Lumina' and Jack O'Lanterns, which you can pick yourself during the first week of October. Families can also enjoy fresh apples, local ciders and hayrides.
Craigies in Edinburgh was established back in 1966, and is well-known as a pick-your-own destination that generations of children and their parents have visited to gather fresh fruits and vegetables. Entry is £3, and you’re provided with a basket and a handy map to point you towards the best picking spots. At time of writing, the pumpkins are still ripening, but they’re available throughout October.
At Millets Farm Centre in Oxfordshire, you can pick your own pumpkin right out in the fields of a working farm over the weekends of 7-8, 14-15 October and throughout half term (21-29 October.) Pumpkin prices vary according to size, and Millets accepts cash only. Pumpkin carving kits and Halloween merchandise can be purchased in the farm shop.
Oxfordshire has an abundance of PYO pumpkins, and Beech Croft Farm, Rectory Farm and The Old Farm Shop are also well worth a visit.
This year’s spectacular Undley Pumpkin Patch and Maize Maze near Lakenheath is open now, offering an all-new pumpkin picking experience. You can choose one from a pre-picked sea of pumpkins, or pick a pumpkin directly from the plant.
There will be approximately 20 varieties of pumpkins available, ranging from small to very large - accompanied by a wonderfully varied selection of colourful gourds and squashes. Whether you’re in search of an autumnal centrepiece, ingredients for a pumpkin recipe or a perfectly carvable specimen, half the fun is in the hunt.
It’s free to visit the Foxes Farm Produce pumpkin patches, and you only pay for the pumpkins you pick, straight from the field. They have two: one near Basildon, and the other Colchester (both are open every day during half term, as well as a number of other selected dates - check to avoid disappointment.) Take on the maize trail while you’re there, too.