The volunteers and animals of Stepney City Farm are getting used to life with Crossrail

15:00 02 February 2011

Kenzie Burns, 2, says hello to Chico the sheep at Stepney City Farm

Kenzie Burns, 2, says hello to Chico the sheep at Stepney City Farm

Carmen Valino

The cows, donkeys, pigs and not to mention the ferrets of Stepney City Farm will be living with more noise than usual this year as Crossrail engineers work a few metres from their home.

Volunteer Katharine Sharp is overrun by Stepney City Farm's ferrets

As part of the works to build a rail transport link connecting east and west London, work will start in March on a ventilation shaft next door to the farm in Stepney Way which has a troubled recent history.

With Crossrail already taking up a third of the farm’s land in preparation, its volunteers could have cause to grumble but £400,000 in compensation payments are set to transform its appearance.

The whole farm has already been re-fenced to improve its layout and in a second phase of works, to start in June, a new rural arts building will go up, to house the farm’s craftspeople such as its blacksmith, alongside a large animal barn.

Volunteer Beth Summers said: “After the farm’s founder Lynne Bennett died, it fell into disrepair

“Everyone who comes in now is so impressed with how it looks and there is much more to follow this year.

“The animals are used to living in the city as well so they shouldn’t be too bad with the noise.”

The largest field on the farm, which changed its name from the Stepping Stones farm ten months ago, will be turned into an 800 square metre community garden and City volunteers will muck in this summer through the East London Business Alliance to get it ready.

The farm is currently open at the weekend and schools and other groups can book visits during the week, but it will reopen for six days a week this summer and will remain open during future works.

A rare animal breeding programme will start this spring.

It will increase numbers from the 12 large animals living there at the moment, including two cows, two donkeys and two saddleback pigs.

Gary Burns, 31, who lives in the Rectory Square estate across the road, was getting a sneak preview with his two-year-old daughter Kenzie.

He said: “It’s nearly closed down a few times.

“It’s always been a great farm but it’s definitely improved now. I’ve been coming here since I was a little boy.”

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