Eating and drinking are at the heart of British culture and there’s no better way of indulging in these two wonderful activities than a Great British Picnic. Such a popular activity, the UK has its very own National Picnic Week which takes place mid-June, perfectly timed for celebrating midsummer!
It would appear that we can credit the English for the tradition of picnics, which evolved from medieval hunting feasts, and somewhat elaborate country banquets. Today picnics are every bit as popular, and what better time to indulge than when on holiday in new surroundings?
For large groups, picnics provide a stress free social way of catering for everyone allowing all party members to contribute and spread the work load. Families can have plenty of space around them where the kids can have fun and enjoy traditional outdoor family games; and for couples, the countryside provides endless peaceful secluded country spots for lazy romantic days.
What to eat and drink on your picnic
Your choices are endless. Whether you want a more traditional fare with sandwiches, pork pies and salads or fancy some luxury with gourmet delicacies, a picnic can cater for all tastes and occasions. People are often very ‘traditional’ when it comes to picnics, packing the family favourites time and time again. But why not cast aside your scotch egg and substitute it for some chargrilled chicken and Mediterranean flavours such as Pesto Rice Salad; or a rustic home-made country pate and British cheese platter.
For something really fun, take a look at this Picnic Crudite Loaf – a novel idea; and if you want to impress your loved one, these delightful Honey Buns will certainly gain you some extra ‘brownie’ points and are easy to pack and carry. Make sure you take plenty of fluids to drink (not just the alcoholic type!), and you may want to consider wine boxes and screw tops to keep things easy and the weight down.
Wherever you are in the UK, you are never more than 70 miles from the sea and what a perfect way to end a day, sitting on the beach as the sunsets having a BBQ picnic. Marinade your favourite meat, pack a bowl of cous cous and salad, grab your bucket BBQ (or pick up a disposable one at the garage) and head off to the beach for some fun when most other folk are going home.
Fifteen tips for the perfect picnic
There are a vast selection of picnic hampers and ruck sacks for sale, equipped with everything needed for a picnic (including the salt and pepper pots!). If you’re heading off on holiday, our advice is to treat yourself to one before you set off. Compact and easy to store away in the car, they take the thinking out of a spontaneous picnic, leaving you to just focus on food, drink and location. It is also worth packing a few little extras to make the day as enjoyable and comfortable as possible. These include:
- Ice packs to keep the food and wine cool (don’t forget the cork screw/bottle opener!).
- Picnic blanket and/or table cloth and napkins.
- Sun tan lotion, sun glasses and umbrella (for the sun and in case you get caught in a shower!).
- Outside games such as boules and rounders.
- Books and magazines for reading, and maybe a Bluetooth portable speaker for listening to music from your iPhone.
- Wind break (especially useful if you are heading off to the beach).
- If you are planning a BBQ, take fire lighters (or wine bottle corks), matches, bucket or disposable BBQ and tongs for turning the food whilst cooking. Allow plenty of time for the BBQ to cool down afterwards, and a rubbish bag for transporting back home.
- Fold-up table and chairs if you want a more formal dining experience.
- Rubbish bags for clearing up at the end of the day.
- Wet wipes for sticky fingers.
- Tea light candles for late afternoon/early evening picnics can add romance to any setting.
- Mosquito repellant such as burning coffee grounds.
- If you don’t have a picnic basket or rucksack, you will also need plates, cutlery, glasses and bowls (plastic is better to avoid breakages and it is lighter and easier to carry).
- Dust off that Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall book you got for Christmas and do some hedgerow foraging. It can make a great picnic activity and provide some surprising discoveries and ingredients for your meal. Use your nose to sniff out wild garlic in the spring (great for a picnic BBQ); turn rock-pooling into a seaside feast with mussels; and pick your own pudding from the hedgerows (if you pick blackberries look out for maggots and don’t get caught scrumping apples!).
- Wow factors – why not bring your romantic or fun side out and create a picnic to remember forever. The photo below just goes to show that with a few little extras (three poles, a sheet and some scatter cushions) you can create the most magical of settings for your picnic, wherever you decide to have it (even if it is in the cottage garden!).
Whether you pack champagne or lager, a picnic can turn a simple meal into a memorable holiday experience at a fraction of the price of restaurant dining. It’s the perfect way to enjoy new surroundings when on holiday or during a ‘staycation’ and can also break the journey up and provide a much needed stop gap on your holiday travels for all family members.