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 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.
D’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.
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.
Entry 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.
And 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.
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.
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.
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.