Did you know it’s National Picnic Week? I think picnics might be one of my favourite summer activities. I think it’s the style of eating that I love – I’m very much a fan of lots of little picky things on a table to dig into – cheeses, cold meats, breads, chutneys. In fact, even when it’s an indoor picnic and I’m having friends over for lunch this is the type of spread I like to put on – it’s easy, requires little to no cooking and pleases everyone. I’ve even been known to create mini picnics just for me sometimes (don’t judge) and take a little platter of goodies to my desk when I don’t have time to make something ‘proper’.
Anyway suffice to say, when summer rolls around I’m always dreaming of outdoor soiree’s where nothing more than a blanket, good company, some cold drinks and snack foods are needed. I’ve already had one pretty epic Richmond park picnic this summer where it was so hot we had to sit in the shade and the hosts were so organised there were baked potatoes and chicken kebabs – that’s picnic dedication. And I’m headed to a blogger picnic of sorts this coming Friday (fingers crossed for sunshine). But being able to eat outside during summer is a luxury I’ll never tire of, and so when GB and I were planning a little day trip to Chelmsford on the weekend just passed (remember my post about looking for a new place to live? Yup, we’re still researching!), I of course immediately exclaimed ‘PICNIC!!’.
Because, what could possibly go wrong? A weekend we were both off work, a week where the sun had been making daily appearances, a list of ‘things to do in Chelmsford’ leading us to a gorgeous park with ample picnic opportunity, a fridge full of Rekorderlig’s delicious new cider cocktails at the ready, and a new backless top from H&M waiting to be debuted. It was the ideal activity for a day of exploring a new town and I was excited.
So excited that when Saturday rolled around I didn’t even consider the weather. I had one of those mornings where I was strangely sprightly, where my outfit just ‘came together’ without any drama, where my hair kind of sat exactly how I wanted it to (don’t you love it when that happens), where my make up didn’t result in a eyeliner disaster and where I was ready at least ten minutes before we’d planned to leave. It was the ideal morning to be honest.
We packed up our picnic foods, threw a selection of tasty cider cocktails into a cool bag, debated the jacket/no jacket decision for a good few minutes, threw on our sunnies and were all set to leave, with plenty of time to spare for our train (which is most unlike us) – ideal.
And then, just as we made to step out of the door, in what seemed like record time, the sun disappeared under a huge dark black cloud and out of nowhere the heavens opened leaving the street in front of us like a mini river. Not Ideal. NOT IDEAL!!
My first thought was that my no jacket decision was clearly the wrong one, so I ran back up stairs to rectify that, and also to add an umbrella into the outfit mix.
My second thought was that my red suede lace up shoes were no doubt going to get ruined in this weather, but I really couldn’t be bothered to find another shoe option that went with my outfit so I’d have to deal with that.
And my third, most critical, thought was – the picnic. OH NO the picnic! We cant have a picnic in this weather! The picnic is RUINED before it’s even begun. Why? Why? WHY BRITISH SUMMER? IT’S JUNE DON’T YOU KNOW?
By this point my thoughts had become actual spoken words and GB and I were paralysed in the doorway in a state of ‘What shall we do?’ and ‘but I’m hungry’ indecision.
It’s important to note at this point that we are not the world’s most decisive couple, at least when it comes to small inconsequential decisions such as this. But while on honeymoon our indecision got so bad that we found a nifty solution – the deciding coin. Our one is a Hong Kong dollar and it stays in a closed compartment in GB’s wallet for times precisely like this, when we are in danger of missing our train and yet are completely debilitated of any rational thought.
Heads – we sack off the picnic idea and hope to do it tomorrow instead (accepting that my hair and outfit probably wouldn’t be as good tomorrow because that’s sods law and we could possibly arrive in Chelmsford to sun and then hate ourselves for eating in a pub).
Tales – we take the picnic with us anyway and hope for a window of unprecedented sun in Chelmsford (but accept that if we continue to be followed by a dark cloud we will be carrying around a cool bag of food and drinks that we can’t eat all day, and probably find that mildly annoying).
The deciding coin spoke and tales it was. So armed with an umbrella and jackets, sunglasses back in the bag, a pretty backless top that might never get seen on and a cool bag of food we might not get to eat in our arm, we once again set off. My suede lace up shoes getting muckier by the second and my hair that sat ‘just right’ that morning getting frizzier by the second.
After all that indecision we of course got to the train station late, missed the train we’d planned to get and then in a hurry bought single tickets instead of returns and realised we were going to have to pay an extra £20 to come home rather than the 50p extra that a return costs. GB was getting stressed, I had soggy feet and frizzy hair and the rain was now horizontal. It wasn’t going well.
But, determined to turn it around, I pounced on a train attendant and pleaded with her to add on a return to our ticket without charging us an extra £20, which she did. Then, with a quick re-check of times and a short sprint, we made it onto the next train only ten minutes later than the last, found a seat and breathed again. I spent the whole train journey telling myself that we were in fact moving away from the black cloud, and even if it followed us, a cloud can’t move as fast as a train so we’d surely have at least a window of picnic opportunity before the rain started, after which we could find the nearest cosy pub and hide away.
And whaddaya know? I was right. We arrived in Chelmsford to sunshine. Real sunshine that meant jacket back off, sunglasses back on, umbrella stowed away and marching to the park so quickly we forgot to stop and buy a baguette on the way.
The park in Chelmsford (named Central Park – which amused me) is rather lovely – big, but not huge, a few different trails around, ducks swimming in the river, garden cafe’s with bunting outside and plenty of picnic tables dotted around. I don’t know why but a table somehow always takes a picnic to the next level doesn’t it? We found a empty bench nestled in a secluded area under some trees, got our blanket out and set about ‘picnicing’.
If you too find yourself in a picnic pickle (i.e. you live in Britain and the weather could quite literally rain on your parade at any moment) these are my tips for making the most of your adventure;
1.Choose the right spot – this is crucial. If it does start to bucket down you don’t want to be three miles up a hill away from any sort of shelter/loos/amenities. Personally I look for a picnic table or a good patch of grass that’s under some trees (means you’ll see the rain before it drowns you), near(ish) to a bin (to quickly dispose of rubbish before it blows away) and still slightly secluded (so you can eat in peace without those screaming children/barking dogs nearby trying to join you)
2.Making packing up easy – if the rain creeps up on you, you’ll need to be able to pack up fast so as not to ruin all your food. As much as it’s lovely to get everything out, keep drinks inside your cool bag (and opt for cans or plastic glasses so you can quickly throw away if you need to), store breads and cakes together and keep the lids for everything handy.
3.Stay cool – if you need to abandon your picnic at any moment and come back to it later, you’ll want to be able to keep your drinks cool so you can carry on enjoying yourself while you take shelter, Invest in some of those ice packs and stuff them into your picnic bag/box to keep your drinks fresh.
4.Pack both sweet and savoury – I don’t know about you but if I’ve just got drowned mid way through a sandwich I’m going to be left both soggy and hungry so a little sugar hit while waiting for the downpour to stop is welcomed. Plus, a picnic without a pudding just isn’t right. I recommend strawberry tarts (oh so British).
Despite the forecast telling us that the rain we’d left behind in London was on it’s way, we had a good hour of gorgeous sunshine before the first sightings of that dark cloud were spotted. We munched our way through our platter of meats, cheeses and chutneys (sans bread because neither of us could be bothered to leave the picnic bubble in search of a shop) and cracked open a few of our cider cocktails while fending off the dogs who could clearly smell our spread.
I’m always a fan of cold cider during a picnic – it’s my go-to drink to bring to any outdoor gathering – but having it in a can, and with the addition of some cocktail flavours made it even better in my book. Rekorderlig have created three flavours of cider cocktails in a can for this summer, and they’re all pretty scrumptious to be honest (not at all like drinking alcohol so be warned). My favourite was the Passionfruit Gimlet (what a name right?) which is passionfruit cider with gin and hint of lime (delish), but there’s also Swedish Punch (combining the strawberry lime cider with vodka, mint and elderflower) and Wild Berries Bramble (which mixes the Wild Berries cider with rum and dark fruits). A great option for BBQ’s, picnics and summer festivals (even ones that are just in your home with your best friends ;-))
We’d only just moved onto picnic dessert – a slice of the chocolate and berry tart I’d baked the day before (out of shot because it didn’t travel well and definitely wasn’t photo worthy by the time we’d messily polished it off) – when the wind started to lift and the first signs that rain might be on the way began to show. At which point we packed up, grabbed a can for the road and went for a meander around the rest of the park with our jackets back on.
With full bellies, and a slight sugar high from the ciders and chocolate tart fuelling us, the rain by this point didn’t really bother us. We walked through the park, took some photos of bridges and ducks (because why not?) and then headed back into the town centre to scope out the shops, eateries and pubs in the area, of which there were many.
There was a cute Saturday market on, with flower stalls, food stalls and music playing, and once the rain got a little heavier we darted into a pub for a drink, sunk ourselves into a soft leather couch and remained there for the rest of the afternoon. As evening drew in, and we’d looked at an entire street of estate agent windows and summarised that it might just be a nice enough place to live, we jumped back on the train to London (25 minutes) and headed home. I whipped up a couple of homemade pizza’s for dinner, GB watched the football and I lounged on the sofa next to him in my PJ’s catching up on my favourite blogs while pretending to be interested in the game every so often.
At one point I thought back over the previous hours and realised that, despite the rain, despite the indecision and despite the fact we’d done very little at all during our day out, it really had been a great day.
We’d done what we set out to do, but with the type of unorganised chaos and unplanned eventualities that made it more fun. We’d ate, we’d drank, we’d relaxed, we’d explored and we’d meandered. Enjoying each others company and relishing our free time. Plus I’d got to wear my favourite new top.
I guess you could say it was the ideal Saturday.
Shop the Post
This post was in collaboration with Rekorderlig, but we’d planned the picnic anyway and I’m always a big fan of their drinks so all funny stories, indecisive coupling and cider sugar highs were our own!