Best Pumpkin picking in Essex 2020
By Helen Wright
Hooray, it’s almost Halloween! Some may think that the UK has gone all ‘American’ about Halloween, but autumn is my favourite season, so I’m always here for a bit of hocus pocus. I’ve been teaching three-year-old Finn about the seasons and a family day out to a pumpkin patch is a great way for little ones to experience Autumn, and Halloween, first hand. I set out to find the best pumpkin picking in Essex for Autumn 2020 where you can pick your own pumpkin (choose from orange, blue and white pumpkins!) straight from the field, navigate a corn maze, spot some farm animals or just sit back with a warm apple cider (for over 18s, of course!).
Halloween doesn’t have to be scary for little ones and taking them to pick their own pumpkin from a pumpkin patch in Essex is a really good way to involve them in the festivities. As well as muddy puddles to jump in and a chance to get their wellies dirty, kids love being able to go wild in the field and pick out their very own pumpkin to take home and carve. It’s WAY more fun than picking one up at the supermarket and a lot of the pumpkin farms in Essex have other activities on offer too – making it a great day out for the whole family.
Where to go pumpkin picking in Essex 2020
Did you know that over 70% of lovely Essex is rural? The county is spoilt with rolling countryside, woodland and farmland, making it the ideal place to go in search of pick-your-own vegetables and fruit. Plus, so much outdoor space means ample space for social distancing so nowhere gets overcrowded, even at weekends. Many of the pumpkin farms in Essex offer year-round PYO opportunities, but theatrical Halloween is the most fun. We’ve rounded up the best places to go pumpkin picking in Essex in 2020.
Hurley’s Pumpkin Forest, Wickford
Our favourite place to go pumpkin picking in Essex is Hurley’s Pumpkin Forest in Battlesbridge, Wickford. There is ample parking and the atmosphere is really family-friendly. It’s not fancy, but what they lack in flashy attractions they make up for in friendly, wholesome community fun. There is a small area with craft stalls, face-painting, slime workshops and kids’ games, and an outdoor cafe for coffee, apple cider and hot chocolates. For an extra charge, kids can do pony rides (£2).
Pumpkin picking is free at Hurley’s Pumpkin Forest, you just pay for your pumpkins, which range from 50p to £5 for the giant ones. I wouldn’t say there was much forest there but the pumpkin trails are wide and there is a wide variety to choose from, including white pumpkins (very Instagram-friendly!) and funny shaped root vegetables that Finn found fascinating. Some of them are hidden under the small pine trees (the farm transforms into a Christmas Tree farm from November), and Finn loved trying to pick the most difficult ones.
It’s really muddy (especially after some rain) so bring your wellies or hiking boots and spare shoes for the car. The ground where the pumpkins are found is not pram-friendly, so little babies are better in a carrier. Wheelbarrows are free to use on the farm and Finn enjoyed pushing them around, although there were quite a few instances where it tipped over and all the pumpkins fell out! At the pay point for the pumpkins, there is also a little shop with carving tools, decorations and other Halloween items – all very reasonably priced. The Pumpkin Forest is usually on every day in October, but this year, visits must be pre-booked online due to social distancing.
Woodham Road Battlesbridge, Wickford SS11 7QL
Cammas Hall Farm, Hatfield Broad Oak
Everyone raves about the cakes at Cammas Hall Farm, (the Victorian sponge is made from fresh strawberries grown right outside the door), so that’s a top reason to go and the pick-your-own pumpkin field is a Halloween bonus. The farm offers year-round fruit picking but strawberries are the main crop. During autumn, a pumpkin field is set up with trails to select your own pumpkin from various sizes. There is usually a tractor ride around the fields but operations are currently suspended due to Covid-19 restrictions. You can also pick your own corn (which was delicious) and there is a large Maize Maze which, if you get easily lost like us, you can spend an hour just running around trying to find the way out.
If you have time, stay for lunch at the cafe (there might be a wait for the table, especially with social distancing) but if you manage to get in, order the renowned pumpkin curry to warm up. For the under 5s, there is a small play area, and face painting and autumn crafts are also on offer. Don’t miss an Instagram opportunity at the ‘strawberry fields forever’ sign!
Needham Green, Hatfield Broad Oak CM22 7JT
(*Sessions need to be pre-booked for a £2 fee, which is then deducted from the cost of your pumpkin).
Foxes Farm Produce, pumpkin picking Essex (Aldham and Basildon)
Foxes Farm Produce is one of the more popular pumpkin patches in Essex. There are two locations (Aldham and Basildon) and both can get very busy, especially as it gets closer to Halloween. The farm has annouced that sessions will need to be pre-booked this year to limit numbers on the field, so you will have to book your slot at the pumpkin patch in advance.
Entry to the pumpkin patch is £1, plus the cost of the pumpkins you have chosen at the end. The field is huge with a bumper crop of pumpkins, squash and other root vegetables. For 2020 they have 15 different varieties. There is no corn maze or play area this year, but lots of areas to relax and take fun photos. The farm have requested one adult per two children to ensure social distancing rules are followed and hand sanitiser will be provided. The kids loved clambering over the hay bales. There are lots of fun pumpkin related games provided around the pumpkin patch, including a pumpkin fact quiz, pumpkin tug of war, bale mountain, welly wangling and a pumpkin scavenger hunt! Like some of the other patches, the ground is really muddy so bring the your boots!
Aldham, Colchester CO6 3PR
*parking sometimes needs to be pre-booked due to limited space
Hasty’s Adventure Farm, Clacton
Hasty’s farm has so much for kids, it’s a year-round Essex attraction for families. Kids are kept entertained in a covered play area, petting zoo, outdoor playground, sand pit and go carts.
The free farm trail is operated year-round and changes theme every six weeks. During October, it becomes a pumpkin-themed trail where guests can pick their own pumpkins. The farm celebrates ‘pumpkin week’ in the ten days before October 31, with extra activities, organised games and entertainment.
The pumpkin patch here is more manicured and controlled than some of the more rustic farms, but this does mean it is both wheelchair and pram friendly. Since Covid-19, pre-booking is required year-round. Entry is £6.95 per person (under 2s go free)
West Rd, Clacton-on-Sea CO15 1AG
Marsh Farm Halloween Festival – pumpkin picking essex
Marsh Farm jumped into action putting Covid-19 measures in place and were one of the first Essex pumpkin patches to confirm they would be running their Halloween festival in 2020. If you have visited before, note that some big changes are now in place including no door admission (pre-booking only on the website) and the entire farm is now cash-free. This includes the cafe, stalls and gift shop.
I really like Marsh Farm and its chilled-out, relaxed atmosphere. There is a large indoor soft play, an adventure play park, petting zoo, tractor driving range, indoor theatre show and tractor hay bale rides. For Halloween, the farm sets up a whole pumpkin village, with the opportunity to pick-you-own white pumpkins as well as varying sizes of the photogenic orange ones. Since there is a charge to enter the farm £15.99 – £17.99 per person, pumpkins are free (one per ticket holder) and there is scheduled entertainment, a carving room, a ‘scary’ boo barn with sweets at the end and the usual Maize maze is themed as a ‘witches maze’. This event is also mostly wheelchair and pram-friendly too.
Marsh Farm Road, South Woodham Ferrers, Essex, CM3 5WP
Epping Ongar Railway GHOST TRAIN
For something a bit different, another brilliant Halloween attraction in Essex is Fright Week at the Epping Ongar Railway. This heritage railway (which runs from Ongar station to Epping with a stop at ‘haunted’ North Weald) runs year-round and has various attractions throughout the year, including Peppa Pig and Paw Patrol events and Santa’s Christmas Train (Santa Specials). Fancy dress is encouraged and at the station you can meet owls, learn pumpkin carving, try apple bobbing, touch some scary creatures in the spider corner.
You can make it a whole experience with vintage Routemaster buses that pick up from Epping and Shenfield stations, whisking you back in time to the Victorian, heritage stations. The trains pass through picturesque countryside, beautiful forests and, (during the Halloween event) have a few scares and screams along the way. The Epping Ongar Railway is the closest steam railway to London, easily accessible via the Central Line.
Station Approach, Chipping Ongar, Ongar CM5 9BN
Halloween at Home
We had such fun checking out the best pumpkin picking in Essex and when we got home, Finn couldn’t wait to carve his Jack-o-lantern – however, he got bored quite quickly and it was left to mummy! I love the Essex pumpkin patches and they make for a great Instagram picture too!
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