Darwin Nurseries sits in 7.5 acres on the eastern edge of Cambridge city and is easily accessible from the town centre by car, bike or bus and is a mere two minutes from Junction 35 of the A14.
There is much to explore around the farm and encourage our visitors to wander round.
As you arrive and park the car you will see Bee Orchid Wood which was established in 2014 with trees donated to us by the Woodland Trust. Nestling amongst the trees is the magical Chestnut Cottage built by our friends from Artisan Structures.
There is plenty of room for picnics and for children to let off steam safely or just sit and watch the animals.
Meet the animals
The growing menagerie of pigs, sheep, goats, chickens and rabbits are a vital part of Darwin Nurseries. The chickens lay eggs for us to sell but, more importantly, all the animals are a key part in the therapeutic and work experience environment .
Harry and George
These two pygmy cross goats are our oldest residents. They have been with us for about 10 years and are real characters. They share the paddock with the younger male goats.
Harry, Jack and Porky are our six-and-a-half-year-old Kune Kune pigs. These brothers came to us in 2010 as tiny piglets aged 10 weeks.
Smudge and his girls - the Hebridean sheep
Smudge was an orphaned ram lamb who had a rocky start. He came to us in spring 2016 and rapidly became a real hit with everyone. He is very friendly. After a while we realised he needed company so along came Sun and Moon - two pretty ewe lambs.
The boys or hooligans (depending on what they’ve been getting up to) are Butter, Nudger and Noodle.
All are Anglo Nubian goats. We have two sets of brothers who came to us almost three years ago as kids from Monarch Stables near St Ives.
We have had many rescue chickens plus hens we have bought over the years. They lay lovely eggs which are very popular - so much so that we have had customers follow us with their egg boxes when we are collecting them. We have a mixture of breeds including some lovely little bantams. Once you have tasted their eggs they are never surpassed.
We have two new black and white pygmy goats called Fred and Scooby given to us by a family. They are gorgeous characters, very friendly and cheeky!
We have a pretty grey bunny called Fluffy. She was given to us by Scotsdales Garden Centre last autumn. We have built a lovely house for her so the children who come and visit can see her up close.
We were given some beautiful indian runner ducks in August 2017. They quickly settled in and have proved to be a great asset and always make everyone smile with their antics.
We are a Clean Hands Zone. Find out more here Clean hands zone page
We have two newly planted woodland areas. There is Bee Orchid Wood as you arrive and High Ditch Wood at the northern end of the farm beyond the orchard. Both have been planted with trees donated by the Woodland Trust. In total we have planted more than 1000 trees and shrubs in the past three years.
Bee Orchid Wood was planted in 2014 and has rapidly established and changed the landscape at the front. High Ditch Wood was planted over the winter of 2016. The aims of the design of the woodlands are to provide a shelter for our growing areas against the prevailing winds and to provide habitats and increase the biodiversity of Darwin Nurseries. This is very important as Cambridge is growing and spreading outwards so pockets of habitats for wildlife are vital.
The greenhouse is the hub of activity, especially during spring and summer where you can see us pot on bedding plants, make hanging baskets and sow and grow vegetables for sale.
Come in and look round and say hello. If you have any queries just ask -we are here to help.
The Gateway Garden and raised beds
The gateway garden was created in 2014 in partnership with John Lewis whose staff have volunteered with us for many years.
It was designed and built by David Leeves.
The raised beds are designed for accessibility. They allow the co-workers to take part in planting and caring for a selection of the crops we grow.
The raised beds are productive and well drained. They allow us to create special growing conditions for certain crops such as asparagus.
Raised beds also allow us to start planting earlier in the year. Feel free to look around and have a sit in the lovely gazebo.
One of our volunteers has revolutionised our watering system in the raised bed area by installing a drip system which runs automatically using our harvested rainwater so we can tailor the amount of water each bed gets depending on what crop is growing.
The permaculture plots
This is our main growing area. All the vegetables we grow here are sold in our shop, Look out for "If we grow it we know it" signs in the shop.
We have been working hard to build beds that are easy to manage following the ethos of permaculture.
What is permaculture?
In short, permaculture is an intertwined holistic way of farming. It is the practice of working with, rather than against, nature through thoughtful observation, rather than thoughtless behaviour.
In practice here at Darwin there are many ways that we are striving to follow the permaculture ethos.
We have been slowly developing our "no dig" beds. Our animal waste and bedding is composted and any green waste from the shop we have through stock rotation is either fed to the animals or composted. Then in time it is used to improve the soil in the growing beds.
We harvest rainwater from our greenhouse roof, which we use for irrigating our crops outside and watering plants in the greenhouse. It means we have reduced our mains water usage substantially and rain water is better for the plants. One heavy rain shower can fill our tank very quickly which is then stored in our large galvanised tank. It was installed by Fuller Water Systems in 2014 and has made a huge difference to the way we water and the quality of produce
Wooden vegetable boxes that we get from our suppliers are given to our friends at Snakehall Farm for its organic vegetable box scheme .
All cardboard is flattened and used as part of our mulching regime and as a natural weed barrier in pathways.
This is a beautiful traditional orchard with many varieties of apples, pears, plums, cherries and gages, some of which are local to Cambridgeshire - plus a small hazel tree plot that we coppice every seven years.
We proudly say that we use no chemicals on our fruits, so you could safely pick an apple off a tree rub it on your sleeve and savour the incredible flavour of the freshest fruit you can get. For the last two years in October we have had apple days where we make apple juice from our harvest, which we then sell in the shop. This has proved to be a popular event.
As you spend time and explore you will see a diverse array of wildlife. You may see kestrels, hear the resident green woodpecker and hear the call of buzzards as well as seeing rabbits and voles.
If you are very lucky you may catch a glimpse of our resident barn owl. We have many projects on the go to create habitats for wildlife, like our pallet bug hotel near the car park and nest boxes in many of the trees around the site.