With the first day of Spring already under our belts and the clocks set to go back at the end of the month, it’s time to start turning our attention to warmer times. We’ve finally made it through the winter – so what better way to celebrate the coming of sunshine and longer days than by getting out the hamper and the plastic crockery and enjoying a well-earned picnic? Popular since at least the 19th Century, picnics are a great way to get together with family and friends and enjoy sharing delicious food and drink in the great outdoors. Here’s our quick guide to enjoying the ultimate picnic:
Find the perfect location
A good picnic is as much about where you enjoy it as what you pack in your hamper – so make sure you spend some time selecting the perfect venue for your picnic. If you live in a city, the chances are your major open spaces will be packed to the rafters at the first hint of sunshine – as anyone who has tried tackling Hyde Park in London on a sunny weekend is sure to tell you. If you can, avoid inner-city parks and gardens at peak times such as weekends and early evenings to enjoy them at their quietest. Or, if you can’t enjoy a picnic midweek, do some investigation into some lesser known green spaces in and around your city. In places like Edinburgh and Leeds, for example, a short bus or train journey can take you to the heart of some of the nation’s most stunning countryside, while Londoners can hop on the Oxford Tube to enjoy relaxing on the greens and swimming in the canals of this genteel city. For country-dwellers, the choices are endless. Beaches are only for the most hardy – remember all those sandy lunches of your youth? – but most coastal areas come equipped with scenic picnic areas where you can enjoy your food away from the wind. Inland, pick official areas in National Parks if you have young children and need access to facilities, otherwise go off-road. From beautiful wild swimming spots to romantic woodland glades, the UK is packed with magical places to enjoy a picnic with family and friends. Just make sure you take all your rubbish away!
Get the kit
Most specialist outdoor shops would have us believe that we need to spend a fortune on an entire kitchen’s worth of gear to have a successful and enjoyable picnic, but of course that’s not the case. With a few sensible bits of equipment and a sense of adventure, everyone can put together a fun and relaxing picnic the whole family will enjoy. An expensive wicker hamper will certainly add a quaint atmosphere to your picnic, but one of the rucksack versions you can purchase in shops like Argos are far cheaper and will do a better job – they’re much easier to carry too! Most of these come complete with plates, cutlery and cups for between 2 and 8 people, so grab one and some cool boxes for your food and you’re ready to go. When packing your food, keep light, squashable items like sandwiches and cakes in a separate box to heavier items such as cans of pop or beer. Want to upgrade your picnic and cook up some hot food? A cheap gas stove in the boot of your car makes an easy and efficient way of heating up dishes on the go, and also means you can keep your party supplied with piping hot coffee and tea!
Plan your menu
Of course, the most important part of a picnic is what you bring to eat and drink. The key is to keep it simple, and not to bring anything that requires too much chopping, cutting or preparing once you arrive. Most picnics consist of sandwiches, fruit and salads, all of which can be easily prepared at home and are convenient to eat outdoors. If you want a dressing for your salad, make it in advance and pack it in an empty plastic bottle to dispense later at ease. Vegetables, hard cheeses (rather than their gooey counterparts) and thinly sliced meat all travel well, while classic like strawberries and trifles make a great addition to any picnic – just be sure to pack them up safely in Tupperware boxes. If it’s slightly more sophisticated occasion, you can up the glamour factor with treats such as chilled Prosecco or Champagne to drink, and gourmet deli treats such as Italian meats and fresh clotted cream. For great deals on delicious picnic food delivered straight to your door, check out services like Ocado.