While I hate saying goodbye to the lovely summer weather we had in September, I do love autumn. Not only because it’s my birthday month but also for the colour, mists, sunrise and sunsets, bonfires and more. Pumpkins were never really on my mind until a few years ago when we went pumpkin picking at Hatton Adventure World.
2023 dates are still tbc for Millets Farm PYO but generally they open weekends from end of September, then daily from nearer to Halloween.
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If you’re going out over half term to pick pumpkins, and are new to it, you may have questions. So many people say they wouldn’t know where to go for it, so here’s my tips for going pumpkin picking
Tips for pumpkin picking
1, Google is your friend. If you don’t have a local farm, just do a search online for pumpkin picking in… and lots will come up. Some will just be pick your owns, some will be
2, Check the protocol in advance. My search unearthed a great farm near us which only does pumpkins, but it turned out that it’s not pick your own, they just sell to the supermarkets. So don’t just turn up, check the facebook page, email them etc.
3, Take something to carry a pumpkin in. Not all places provide wheelbarrows. Some hand out plastic bags – at Hatton they gave us a bag (you pay for entry, and get a free pumpkin so the bag tells them you’ve had your free one), but they’re never strong enough. So take a buggy, festival wagon, your own wheelbarrow, a strong man, or reusable bags.
4, Use the wheelbarrows provided. There’s always a bit of a walk, so take one when offered at the start…and please don’t follow others back to the car to grab their discarded wheelbarrow, when there’s other people waiting at the start for one.
5, Pick your pumpkin carefully. N kept prodding and turning, but be clear on the sizes you want and tell your children if they’re doing the choosing. Holes or damage isn’t great.
6, Think footwear. Sturdy shoes, although wellies aren’t always necessary unless the weather’s been horrendous beforehand.
7, Take photos, but be aware of everyone else around you because it’s bound to be busy. Learn to use clone to remove people, or photoshop, or just crop others out of the photo.
8, Be careful of soft prickly stems. I wasn’t expecting prickly pumpkin stems, but they are so watch out for little fingers getting a surprise.
9, Take cash, because it’s rare you can pay by card.
10, Don’t be surprised if it’s more expensive than the supermarkets. For 1 medium to large pumpkin and 2 small ones I paid £7.50. I’m not sure if it’s just expensive down south, or whether that’s about the norm, but you’re paying for the choice and the experience. Some places like Hatton adventure World you pay an entrance fee to the whole place, then get a pumpkin free, other places like Millets Farm Centre (or PYO) you don’t pay to get in, but pay for the PYO aspect.
Our Millets farm pumpkin picking experience
In previous years, we’ve just bought a pumpkin from the supermarket. But picking your own pumpkin is always more fun than buying it from the supermarket (or even a local farm shop – although now we do tend to do the latter).
Millets Farm Centre had the weekend before half term for pumpkin picking as well as half term, so I wasn’t sure how busy the first day would be. We arrived about 30 minutes after opening and it was busy but not too bad. We managed to grab the last wheelbarrow, which N insisted on pushing the whole way. You go on N, all the easier for me.
We’ve never done PYO at Millets before. It’s quite a nice walk up to the fields, especially in the gorgeous warm sunny weather we had. The ground was fine, so no swampy soil for getting my trainers filthy in.
N was so excited. Just seeing the orange globes spread across the fields in the sun before you, is a pretty spectacular site.
Being 5, N didn’t really think about moving much up the rows, or that far down the field, but we did manage to find a nice enough pumpkin. Once he’s decided, there’s no way he’s budging and changing to a different one. We also had a couple of small ones. We’ll carve the larger pumpkin and decorate the other 2. I just need to decide how I’m decorating my one, then I’ll let N loose on the other one. I’m thinking glitter maybe.
It was a gorgeous time in the fields although we didn’t take too much time. There was too much else to explore once we’d paid and dropped the pumpkins back in the car.
First stop was the animals…no the carousel. N does get his head turned by rides, and the carousel was his choice over seeing the animals. At £2 I got away with him going on the ride on his own. I love scary rides, but I’m not keen on carousels for some reason. He looked a bit bored half way round, and people were saying it was faster than they expected, but N said he enjoyed it as he stepped down with wobbly legs.
The playground was really busy, and N didn’t play on much. Just enough to build up his appetite before lunch. Millets is always a good option for lunch – the kids lunchbox is only £4.50 for 5 options, and there were plenty of places to sit inside. Although the weather was warm enough that some people were sitting out on the terrace area instead.
After lunch I managed to persuade him into the garden centre. Because although we were there for autumn and Halloween, in the garden centre it’s already all about Christmas.
Millets Farm garden centre winter and Christmas displays
I’m a sucker for Christmas displays at any time of year, and it didn’t disappoint. There were plenty of displays where you could take your picture, although confusing as to which you could stand or sit on. N insisted that the Labradors in front of the fire were real.
The train going round the tree was a favourite, and of course trying to persuade me to buy him various toys (mostly Paw Patrol which he’s really too old for now). With me trying to sneak out some Christmas books and a bubble blower from Santa without him noticing (it didn’t work because the woman at the till didn’t play ball and be discrete – damn him being 5 years old and observant, but I reckon he’ll have forgotten by Christmas).
We checked out the decorations and lights. I just love checking out the beautiful different coloured tree displays, but I’m gutted that there’s still no teal or peacock colours on sale anywhere. I’ve been trying for 3 years, so maybe next year….
Having spent around 4 hours at Millets Farm Centre, it was time to head home again. It was a lovely day out, and I just wish there were more places around the county to pick pumpkins.
Do you go pumpkin picking? Where do you go? What tips do you have?
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