A blacksmith lesson at Surrey Docks farm

Kevin Boys blacksmith

What do you get for the Dad who has it all*, when they turn forty?

A blacksmith lesson, of course!

*D will be the first to admit that he doesn’t, in fact, have it all. But I always think unusual gifts are the best. When I spotted the email address of Kevin Boys, blacksmith, outside his foundry at Surrey Docks farm, London when I visited with my daughter a few months back, I filed it away as something to remember when casting around for Dad-gifts.

Kevin Boys BlacksmithKevin Boys has been operating for over thirty years and, as well as forging gates and other types of bespoke furniture, he makes decorative pieces of metalwork, many of which are displayed around Surrey Docks farm.

Surrey Docks farmD’s workshop was for two hours, on a Sunday morning. We managed to keep it a surprise right up until the end – mainly by my not telling the children anything about it beforehand, even though it was their birthday present to D. All he knew was that he had to wear old clothes, and get a good night’s sleep ready for a busy morning.

Kevin Boys blacksmithOnce suited, booted and apron-ed, D set to work at the forge, with one-to-one instruction from Kevin.

Kevin Boys blacksmithWe later found out that D’s great-grandfather had been a blacksmith (which helps explain his big paddle hands. And love of smashing things with a hammer.)

blacksmith trainingThe foundry itself was busy, with Kevin Boys’ staff, apprentices, and other trainees all hammering away at metal (the sound rang out across the farm all morning).

Kevin Boys blacksmith

The children and I wandered round the farm while D had his lesson. Surrey Docks is right next to the river Thames, directly opposite Canary Wharf. So the farm makes for a good entrance point for a riverside walk, as well as a destination in its own right.

Surrey Docks farmEntry to the farm is free, with a suggested donation of £3. It’s well worth paying this amount, especially when you consider the farm is a charity, providing education to schools and people with learning disabilities. There are all the animals you would expect from a city farm: sheep, pigs, miniature ponies, donkeys, cows, chickens, turkeys, ferrets, rabbits and guinea pigs.

Surrey Docks farmAnd goats. Cheeky goats, who eagerly gobble up the feed you can buy for £1 in the farm shop. There’s a large central enclosure where you get close enough to pet the sheep and goats. But you’re given strict instructions only to feed them from outside the enclosure, and never to take in anything edible – or they would literally mob you.

Surrey Docks farm

As well as the animals, there’s also a nature garden, with bug hotels; an orchard; and Picalilli cafe, who sell delicious brunches and interesting home-made soup (I had a bowl of wild nettle when I first visited), all accompanied by scrummy sourdough bread.

Surrey Docks farm

Picalilli Cafe

Our family trip to the blacksmith’s/farm worked well because it was such a sunny day. The children could have stayed even longer at Surrey Docks when we visited, but two hours might have been stretching it a bit far if it had rained.

And D? Well, he enjoyed his training, and even came away with a wall hook to show for it. He said that, when the children are a little older and it’s easier to get away regularly each week, he’d like to do a longer course.

Kevin Boys blacksmithI’d be glad if he did. I think the blacksmith look suits him.

Two-hour lessons for adults are available with Kevin Boys blacksmith at his Surrey Docks foundry for £25. Surrey Docks farm is on the banks of the River Thames, with Canada Water and Surrey Quays as the nearest stations.

1 Comment

  • Christine
    November 4, 2015 at 7:30 am

    I’m glad your husband had fun! I went on a blacksmithing heritage taster session a couple of months ago and realised it’s much harder than it looks. I made a key ring though which is certainly unique (due to its rather odd ‘design’)!


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