With more and more people holidaying in the UK and doing things with their families that don’t cost the earth, the humble picnic is growing in popularity once again. It’s a great weekend activity that gets the whole family out into the fresh air. And now that school’s out it’s a great way to keep the kids busy during the holidays.
Take a look at our top tips for creating the perfect picnic hamper…
Where to picnic
There are fabulous picnic sites all over the UK. To find somewhere nearby start by visiting the National Trust website. Most National Trust properties have extensive gardens in which you can picnic. Or if you have an iPhone or iPod Touch you can download the new National Trust app.
It’s free and offers you the chance to find National Trust places and spaces in your local vicinity. It then offers you the information on those properties – from opening times to directions.
Established in 1427, Greenwich Park in London is one of the oldest royal parks. There are a whole host of things to do and see, including a deer enclosure, playground and sports facilities.
The open areas and fantastic gardens are a great place to lay out your blanket and eat.
Penjerick Garden near Falmouth in Cornwall is of considerable historic and botanic interest and a fantastic picnic spot. It overlooks the sea and is full of flowers, plants and trees. The lower half of the garden is wild woodland, with various ponds to relax by.
Bridge End Gardens in Saffron Walden in Essex features a fantastic hedge maze, perfect to keep the kids busy before or after you settle down for your picnic. There is also a lovely rose garden to stroll through.
Victoria Park in Southport on Merseyside is a large grassy expanse perfect for picnics. There are also areas for ball games, a large playground and a miniature steam train.
You could also visit your local woodland or a nearby beach for your picnic. Most woods have picnic benches and designated picnic areas, but if you fancy a walk you can wander into the woods and find a suitable spot yourselves.
Your picnic hamper needs to feed your family and keep them fuelled for the rest of the day. If you are going to one of the above parks or are just going to the local woodland area you will need food that will give you the energy to walk, play and sightsee.
We’ve gathered the best picnic food recipes from the web, so you don’t have to.
Sandwiches are a vital ingredient in any picnic hamper. To start, make sure you have a good selection that caters for everyone’s tastes. Try simple cucumber, cheese and onion, ham and cheese, jam or the classic BLT. Or, if you’d rather, bring along all the ingredients and let everyone make up their own. For a great sandwich recipe try Jamie Oliver’s Triple Decker Sandwich recipe from the Sainsbury’s website.
Salad is another great picnic food. Either make it yourself full of tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, lettuce and spring onion or buy a bag of salad from the supermarket. Get some salad dressing too. Why not try these stuffed baby peppers by Gennaro Contaldo over at the BBC Food website.
Bring along a selection of pasties – from the traditional Cornish variety to cheese and onion. Or make your own using Rachel Allen’s beef and mint pasties from the Good Food Channel. Along with these you could have scotch eggs, hand-cooked crisps and cold meats.
For pudding you should have lots of fruit and, to satisfy cake lovers, a Victoria sponge or lemon drizzle cake. Or you can make one yourself – try this indulgent raspberry bakewell cake by Barney Desmazery from the BBC Good Food website.
A picnic is a great way to get your five-a-day, so put particular emphasis on fresh fruit and salad. Make sure, too, that you have lots of water – especially if you are going to be doing a lot of walking – as well as lemonade, coffee, tea and maybe even a nice bottle of wine. For a really summery drink take a look at this iced peach tea recipe from Channel 4 food.
If you are worried about eating all that food and watching your waistline, remember to pack some low-fat goodies and make sure you fit some exercise into your day. Pack a Frisbee or football to get the whole family active.
Interflora has a wide selection of picnic hampers which are perfect to take with you on a picnic or if you don’t have time to prepare something yourself. The Sumptuous Summer Hamper, is just perfect for a picnic, filled with jams, wine, fudge, cheese and biscuits.
Or for a truly indulgent picnic try Interflora’s Picnic Hamper which is filled with cheese, chocolate, jam, flapjacks and biscuits. It also comes with plates, forks, knives and spoons for four.
Other picnic essentials
Make sure your hamper has a few icepacks in there to keep everything cool, especially if you are picnicking on a hot day. A thermos is also a good idea for tea and coffee or, to save on space, fill a thermos with hot water and make your tea and coffee at the picnic site.
Cups, glasses and mugs are often overlooked. Make sure there are enough for everyone to have a drink. The same goes for plates and cutlery too. Plastic picnic sets are relatively inexpensive and can be used again and again, meaning you won’t buy paper plates only to throw them away after one use.
Knives are also vital – you might find yourself needing to cut up rolls, meat or fruit. Probably best to include a small chopping board, too, to make this job easier.
Bug spray is important in the summer months; it keeps bugs away from your food and stops everyone being bitten by mosquitoes.
Sun cream is a real essential if you are going to be out in the sun. Be sure you have the appropriate factor for everyone, as children need a higher factor than adults.
A good blanket is essential. If you are going to be going somewhere where the ground might be wet, invest in a blanket with a waterproof underside so you can enjoy your picnic even if it has been raining.
Finally, take the trouble to ensure you take everything with you when you leave. Many picnic venues have bins, but if you find yourself without one nearby you should have plastic bags to put your rubbish in to throw away later.
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