Are you heading out for a picnic in your part of the world? From city parks to the wilds of remote national parks, there is certainly somewhere close to you where you can get close to nature. That is one of the joys of a picnic!
Wherever you go, whether you live there or are just visiting, it is important to remember that you share the space not only with many other people but also with wildlife. Urban green-spaces are refuges for countless wild creatures, whilst further afield the wider countryside is also a workplace for farmers and other rural businesses. For your, and everyone’s, safety & enjoyment…Don’t forget to follow the 5 points of the countryside code!
- Be safe, plan ahead and follow any signs.
If possible, take a map, and always tell someone where you are going and when you plan to return. It is a good idea to check the weather forecast before you leave, take water, and wear appropriate footwear/clothing.
- Leave gates and property as you find them.
Even if you only visit occasionally, don’t forget that the countryside is also a home and a workplace. Leaving closed gates open can risk animals straying and coming into danger. Please don’t climb fences, walls and gates as this can cause costly damage.
- Protect plants and animals and take your litter home.
Litter is not only unsightly, but also dangerous both to wild animals as well as livestock and pets. Please pick up after your dog, as dog faeces can be dangerous to people and farm animals, and affect plants in the vicinity. Dispose of the bagged waste in a bin, do not dump it, or throw into bushes!
- Keep dogs under close control and on the path.
Keeping dogs to the path ensures they do not trespass onto farmland or protected areas, and is especially important during bird nesting season and lambing time. Please always use a lead near sheep, and keep your dog under control near other farm livestock. (See the South Downs National Park Authority’s Take The Lead campaign for why this is so important and how you can get involved in promoting responsible dog walking in the national park)
- Consider other people.
Everybody that uses the countryside comes for different purposes; from horse riding to bird watching, picnics to mountain biking. It is also, for many, a home and a workplace. Please be careful not to damage property, and to minimise disturbance or obstruction to other people.
But that’s enough of the “don’ts” how about some “do’s”?! There are so many reasons to get out and enjoy the Great Outdoors and so many things you can do to turn a picnic into a grand adventure.
Here is a list of 8 ideas for brilliant picnic activities!
We’d all love clear blue skies and sunny days, but the Great British weather is famously unpredictable. When the clouds appear it is a great opportunity to engage the imagination and have some fun.
As the wind and air currents move the clouds, they change their shape in the light & shadow; from sailing boats to dragons, the sky is literally the limit!
For those who prefer a more scientific approach the BBC Weather team have put together this fascinating guide to cloud types and their formation, so you can impress your friends by being your own weather forecaster!
Download: BBC cloudspottingguide
A picnic is a great way to connect with nature. Wildlife can be found all around us, both in rural areas and in urban locations, if you know where and how to look. From wildflowers to trees, birds to bees, even tracks and signs, the Woodland Trust’s Nature Detectives website has some great spotting sheets and resources that you can download and print out for free!
2 minute beach clean
If you are heading to the coast for your picnic why not take part in the 2 Minute Beach Clean campaign. It’s a fantastic way of doing your own tiny bit to help the environment, and many tiny actions add up to a huge impact. All you need is a pair of gloves, a bag, and two minutes! Every piece of litter taken off the beach is one less piece of rubbish in our oceans. To find out more visit the campaign’s website: 2 Minute Beach Clean
Stop, close your eyes, and listen. List all the different sounds you can hear, man-made or natural. From planes and cars, to buzzing bees and birdsong, you might be surprised how noisy the world is when we stop and pay attention to it.
If you are lucky enough to track down the creator of the birdsong in the bushes, you might want to try and identify it. I find this RSPB guide can be helpful, especially for beginners.
Paint a scene (or photograph it)
The wonderful thing about picnics are the memories you make. But wouldn’t it be great to be able to take home a souvenir too? Dig out the paints, sharpen the coloured pencils, or pack the felt tip pens – it doesn’t matter if you are an expert artist or think you possess no artistic talent at all; the idea is simply that trying to replicate the view onto paper, makes you focus and look much closer. If you really don’t feel the artistic vibes, take along your camera – even the one on your smart phone will take great photos to help you remember the day.
Follow a bumblebee
Whether you are having your picnic in a park, meadow, or your own back garden, you are likely to find you are not alone! Bumblebees and butterflies love the same places we do, particularly if they are filled with flowers. Follow a bumblebee on its foraging trip and see where it goes… what flowers does it seem to prefer, does it like a particular colour or shape of flower, can you see the sacks of pollen it has gathered on its back legs? Bumblebee Conservation have put together some fantastic guides and even a mobile phone app to help you identify the bumblebees you see. Find out more here.
Where you find bumblebees, you’ll often find butterflies. Later in the summer you could turn your picnic into a chance to contribute to an important piece of citizen science by taking part in the Big Butterfly Count!
Find a new perspective
Seek out an ants eye view or find out what it’s like to be up with the birds. We spend much of life viewing the world from one level, very much one dimensional. But get down low in the grass, or climb up into the branches of a strong tree and you’ll experience a whole new perspective.
From Gandalf, to Harry Potter, to Winnie-the-pooh, all the great literary characters knew how to handle a good stick! A lightsaber, swords, magic wand… the ability of a stick to shape-shift with your imagination is limitless! My favourite game to play was first introduced to the world by Winnie-the-pooh and Christopher Robin in the stories by AA Milne… Pooh-sticks of course! Never played pooh-sticks? Gather your friends, choose a short stick each (up to about 30cm long) and line up along the side of a bridge, facing upstream. On the count of three, everyone drops their stick into the water and dashes across to the other side to see whose stick appears from under the bridge first! Simple fun!
I hope these activity ideas will inspire you to make the most of your picnic adventure. Maybe you have a favourite game or activity? I’d love to hear it!