It's national picnic month, so grab your hamper and get ready to eat, drink and be merry under the summer sun.
The city is hot and the gauge is pushing 30.
The last thing you feel like doing is going for another walk surrounded by traffic and reflective surfaces. Humidity has reached 100 and the thought of even pretending to want eggs and avo for brunch is being replaced with the mind-flash “Cold shower. Winter. Ice” on repeat.
During summer, getting out into the open air feels like a much-needed injection of life into your bloodstream. And what better way to do that than by getting some choice friends or family together and ducking out on a picnic? You don’t even have to go far – any green space will do, because trees absorb water that evaporates in the heat, making the area around them cooler. Fact.
But if you do want to make it into an adventure, especially given that July is world picnic month, get your gear in order and start exploring some of the best picnic spots and walk-combinations around.
Pack your picnic
When you were a child, picnics were lovingly prepared feasts of white-bread sandwiches crammed with wet-looking cheese or pre-cut meats, multipack crisps, a box of strawberries if you were lucky, and some melted pack of lunchbox snack bars. A few other ‘healthy’ items would be thrown in, and a well-meaning relative would probably have packed a quiche or or some other non-descript pastry item. Young you’s mind was probably blown.
Today, let’s face it, your picnic is more likely to consist of a four-pack and a bag of crisps. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy it somewhere special, somewhere outside.
Where to go?
You can of course, have a picnic anywhere – the tube, a bus, in your living room – but there are some spots that are really special.
There are plenty of great picnic spots in London. Hit up one of the larger parks to give you a sense of getting away from it all. Hampstead Heath is best for this, and on a hot summer’s day there’s nowhere better to head to drink prosecco.
For a more sedate picnic, Kew Gardens, is one of the most beautifully verdant areas in the city. Yes there’s an entrance fee, but the price for peace is worth it. Expect manicured beds, hot glasshouses packed with tropical flowers, and the odd tree-lined lawn perfect for stretching out under with a hamper. And if you forget an essential, the on-site cafe serves some of the best cake slices in the city.
Greenwich Park, another royal park to London’s south east, is another dreamy location for gathering friends together and eating a meal. Take the Thames Clipper boat there, or hire bikes and cycle the seven miles along the riverfront, climbing into the wooded park when you arrive.
If the humidity is getting too much and you want to venture a bit further out of the city, Epping Forest (hit the central line) is almost right on London’s doorstep. There are countless parks and trails for you to enjoy, and mountain bikes to rent if your heavy picnic has made you feel guilty about all the cake you consumed.
Get out of your city, whether it’s Manchester, London or Liverpool, and head to Shrewsbury on Virgin Trains. This whole, getting-lost-in-the-wilderness area is set in one of the most beautiful areas of England: Shropshire. Choose Lyth Hill for panoramic views of the surrounding countryside, hike along The Wrekin, and stock up with a pint of cider and pie after your countryside injection.
Other great spots include the top of Mam Tor, in Derbyshire’s Peak District. It’s a short walk from Edale Train Station, but with magnificent views. Take the staples (some cheese, bread and tomatoes from the greengrocer’s in Castleton) and enjoy the four-mile round walk to Mam Tor’s peak. Keep your eyes peeled for the land which has been cleaved away due to a landslide. You can also walk parts of the Pennine Way from here. The first stage leaves from Edale, which you should be able to see from Mam Tor’s peak. If you’re travelling from anywhere else in the country, take Virgin trains to Manchester or Sheffield, and then hop on the trans-Pennine express local stopping service. Edale is the top you need to be right in the middle of the wilderness.
One of the best things about having a picnic is being able to squeeze it into your working day, somehow. You could just as easily take a bus after work to somewhere green and enjoy some al-fresco dining. With a picnic, the world is your oyster.
So wherever you are, wherever you want to picnic, get outside, get some friends together and have a picnic this July.