What to expect when you go pumpkin picking, what do you need to take and what’s it like at Tulley’s Farm?
Lured in by Instagram photos of toddlers in wheelbarrows and amid piles of bright orange pumpkins I decided that I did quite fancy seeing what this pumpkin picking lark is all about. It’s an ideal activity to do in the time of COVID as it’s outside and social distancing is pretty easy – but at any time of year it’s a lovely activity to do on an autumn day.
But at the back of my mind had always been ‘isn’t that a long way to go just to buy a vegetable?’ – our nearest pumpkin picking farm is about 35 minutes away and I couldn’t see us spending hours walking up and down a field to pick the perfect size so wasn’t sure it was worth it. In the end we spent an hour at the farm – I’m sure we would have been there a lot longer but the weather wasn’t very good – and really enjoyed ourselves. If you’ve never been before, read on to find out my top tips!
We went to Tulley’s Farm in West Sussex, a large pick-your-own (PYO) farm that has other crops throughout the year but is known for its pumpkin patch in October – and also for a massive Halloween spectacular called Shocktoberfest, apparently the largest of its kind in Europe.
This year entry was only via pre-booked tickets, but I prefer that anyway as it means you know when you arrive there will be space to park and it won’t be too busy! They charge a small amount per person – it varies depending on the day you go, but we paid £5 each per adult and child over 2. Of course, you also pay for the pumpkins that you purchase as well, ranging from 50p for the tiniest ones up to £20 for the sort of pumpkin you would stagger under the weight of.
Parking is on grass which wasn’t muddy even though it had rained a lot over the past week and earlier that day – but the fields themselves were a different story. You can walk around the site quite easily – I can’t remember what was actually on the ground but it was a firm and dry surface – but the pumpkin fields themselves were a different story. I was very glad I had wellington boots!
You can collect a wheelbarrow from the storage shed to carry your pumpkins but I was more keen to give my 2.5 year old a ride – and she wanted to get in too! The wheelbarrows are sanitised before they are replaced for the next user but the cleaner they are sprayed with leaves a little bit of liquid in the bottom, which combined with the mud meant all the wheelbarrows had what can only be described as sludge in the bottom (the rain and bad weather can’t have helped). So I tipped it out onto the ground but it was still quite mucky. Luckily I had bought a spare plastic bag with me so I lined the wheelbarrow with the bag and my daughter quite happily sat on top. She loved being pushed around in the wheelbarrow and it was much easier (i.e. less heavy going) than I expected!
The farm’s owners know people want good backdrops for their photos so there are some nice props around such as a large wooden barrow filled with pumpkins and a pumpkin sign at the beginning of the field. As it was so muddy we didn’t venture that far into the field and I decided not to use the wheelbarrow for a pumpkin and get my daughter to walk (I spotted one small child with mud all down one side of her coat where she had clearly slipped and fallen over!) and instead to pick up a pumpkin from the handily arranged crates near the cashier desks!
There was still plenty to look at with quite a few scarecrows and Halloween decorations (skeleton figures for instance) to check out, which my daughter really enjoyed. We came across a skeleton in period dress which I wondered if she might find scary but she gave it a cheery wave and said hello!
There are places to buy food and drink, large picnic tables spaced well apart, and some fun things for kids to do like a mini maze shape on the ground to follow, and those large photo boards with spaces to put your face through. The farm shop area is quite fun to look around as well as there are pumpkins of all shapes and sizes and colours to enjoy – my daughter had fun picking out the ones she wanted! By the tills you can also buy pumpkin carving kits, battery-operated tea light candles and fruit and veg, and there are some final photo opportunities outside.
You are asked to wear a mask whenever you are under one of the covered areas – such as the tills, or seating area – and there is a different entrance and exit, though no one-way system as such in place as that wouldn’t really work. I was happy with the social distancing measures (including stations with hand sanitiser) and found all the staff I spoke to very friendly. It was a very enjoyable day out despite the weather – we didn’t stop for anything to eat or drink and it would have been nice to go with friends but we booked at the last minute and didn’t think of it in time!
My top tips to make sure you get the most out of your pumpkin picking – which would likely apply to any PYO pumpkin patch!
- Wear wellies, if there is any remote chance that it will be muddy – and maybe if there’s not, as most kids love wearing wellies anyway!
- Take a bag to put muddy wellies into when you get back into the car
- Don’t forget your face mask as you’ll need it in the areas under cover, and might want to wear it outdoors too if it’s very busy
- Take a plastic bag or similar to put in the wheelbarrow if you want a child to sit in it. And in case there aren’t any bins, another bag to put the dirty carrier bag into afterwards!
- Take wet wipes or wear gloves if it’s cold – the pumpkins are muddy and especially dirty if it has been raining!
- Take a large strong bag to carry your pumpkins in. You could take the wheelbarrow right up to your car but then you will probably still want something to put the dirty pumpkins in before they go in your car boot.