Down on the farm
Maddie Gressel discovers rock gardens, lavender fields and one very happy wild boar in her search for Hong Kong’s most charming farms...
Spring has sprung and with it, a whole new crop of baby animals and pretty posies are popping up across Hong Kong’s countryside. This Easter holiday, tear the kiddies away from the telly and spend a few days outside enjoying nature at its best with these five great farms…
1. Mapopo Community Farm and Market Fanling
Not far from Fanling Station, Mapopo is a quick and convenient way to introduce the little ones to farming. The farm grows delicious organic fruits and vegetables (including choi sum, cabbage, mint and sweet tomatoes), available for sale at their outdoor market every Wednesday and Sunday. There are also regular tours, farming workshops, soap-making tutorials and talks on subjects such as permaculture (sustainable agriculture systems), mostly in Cantonese. The Lavender Garden is nearby as well, making it easy to hit these two spots in one go. Daily 9am-4.30pm, free, 9761 6123, www.mapopo.wordpress.com.
2. Kadoorie Farm Tai Po
Like many of Hong Kong’s farms, Kadoorie has plenty to see: a wildlife sanctuary housing little deer, squirrels, bats and Scar − the happiest, most hirsute wild boar in Hong Kong. It also has a handicraft centre where kids can sit and paint pinecone animals for hours, as well as endless rows of greenhouses filled with flowers and succulents. Animal lovers will not be disappointed with a pond of bright pink flamingos, amphibian and reptile houses and one very brazen whistling parrot. In fact, everywhere you turn in this green, terraced maze holds a new discovery. What sets Kadoorie Farm apart, besides its enormous size, is its commitment to educating folk about sustainable agriculture. Every pen, pond and patch is accompanied by charming signs explaining agricultural techniques like crop diversification and natural fertiliser. It’s ‘edutainment’ at its best. Daily 9.30am-5pm (last entry at 4pm), $10, 2483 7200, www.kfbg.org.hk.
3. The Lavender Garden and The Rainbow Organic Strawberry Farm Fanling
The Lavender Garden is the perfect place to spend a peaceful day away from the city. It’s a manageable size, so you’ll be able to fit in everything. First you’ll want to feed the rowdy bunch of newborn goats. From there, wander through the lavender fields, or shop for potted plants in the outdoor emporium – you’ll find verbena, carnations, orchid sage, tarragon, rosemary and of course, French lavender ($28-35 per pot). For lunch, don’t miss the farm’s outdoor barbecue ($80 for a set meal, including chicken, beef, pork and spare ribs, or go for their extravagant supreme menu including a whole suckling pig for $1,900 per 12 diners – best not tell the kiddies they were petting a porker beforehand). For dessert, you can head over to the strawberry farm next door and pick your fill during strawberry season, which runs until May. Mon-Fri 10am-6pm, Sat&Sun 10am-10pm, $5 Mon-Sat, $10 Sun and public holidays, 9302 0258, www.lavendergarden.com.hk.
4. Lion’s Nature Education Centre Sai Kung
Lion’s Nature Education Centre in Sai Kung isn’t so much a farm, but is more like a sunny, sprawling park. Strolling through on a spring Saturday, you’re likely to see plenty of families playing badminton, chasing the dog, bird-watching or simply lying on the grass. The 16-hectare centre is also home to a large lotus pond, an insectarium, a rock academy, shell museum, Chinese medicinal herb garden and a butterfly valley − all of which provide a great opportunity for science-curious kids to explore nature. A large part of the centre consists of natural woodland with a conveniently marked trail. As one sign notes ‘more you walk, more you learn!’ There’s a small cafeteria as well, but Lion’s is a perfect place to enjoy a big picnic, so pack ahead. Daily 9.30am-5pm, free, 2792 2234, www.lnec.gov.hk.
5. Tai Tong Lychee Valley Yuen Long
There is, quite possibly, everything an animal and nature-loving tot could want in the expansive farms of Tai Tong Lychee Valley. You could easily spend an entire day here and entry is a reasonable $20 a pop. Once you’re in, you can do everything from feeding carrots to goats and rabbits, riding horses, learning more about agricultural tools, catching fish (with a net!), exploring acres of fresh fruit and veggie crops and navigating a ropes course. Barbecue pits offer a place to refuel too. It’s quite a trek to get to, but well worth the visit – we suggest taking a cab from Tai Ma Road light rail station. Don’t forget the mozzie spray! Daily 9am-6pm, $20, 2470 2201, www.yl.hk/taitong.