The 50 Best Picnic Spots - Rural

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Rhiannon Batten finds the perfect places to lay your blanket this summer

Selsley Common

"One of the many commons in the Stroud valleys, on a clear day Selsley has the most spectacular views - right out across the Severn plains with the Black Mountains in the distance," says Evie Pace. "Expect to see lots of kite- and model-airplane-flyers around and even an ice cream van if you're lucky," she adds. It's also rich in wildlife.

Getting there: Selsley Common consists of around 160 acres of open-access land outside the village of Selsley, around 2m from Stroud in Gloucestershire.



Abinger Hammer

The picturesque village green, in Surrey's Abinger Hammer, has a river running through it and is the perfect place for a lazy summer afternoon's picnic, according to Mark Scott. There's a cricket pitch, a tearoom and plenty of "space for kids to walk, kick a ball and throw a Frisbee". An unusual village clock commemorates the fact that Abinger Hammerwas once a centre of the iron industry, but its main claim to fame is that the novelist E M Forster lived there for over 40 years.

Getting there: Abinger Hammer is 8km west of Dorking on the A25.



Boxhill

This North Downs summit is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and "a supreme example of themagnificent countryside Britain has on offer," says Mark Price. Boxhill is so popular that you're unlikely to have it to yourself but, with 490 hectares to explore, you'll find a scenic spot to lay your rug.

Getting there: TheNational Trust provides free public access to Boxhill, which is just north of Dorking in Surrey (01306 885502; www.nationaltrust. org.uk)



Devil's Dyke

"I often take my family for a picnic to the top of the Dyke, outside Brighton," says Laurence. "It offers outstanding views over the South Downs, the westernweald and the English Channel."

Getting there: The bestway is by no 77 bus from Brighton Pier. An opentopped service runs at hourly intervals throughout the summer and takes 30 minutes.

For more general information on the Dyke, which has open access, contact the National Trust (01273 857712; www.nationaltrust.org.uk)



Crook O' Lune

"This is a popular site with good views of the River Lune and the Lune Valley, which were once painted by JMW Turner," advises Laurence. Named after a horseshoe bend in the river, it is set to the north of Lancaster's Millennium Way - which at this point traverses a former rail line and viaduct - and boasts benches, a locally renowned snack bar and car parking.

Getting there: Crook O' Lune picnic site is one the northern bank of the river, just outside Caton.

For more general information on the Lune Valley visit www.citycoastcountryside. co.uk



Upper Derwent Valley

This site was named Midlands regional winner in the Picnic Awards 2008, according to Laurence. "The prize is well deserved as the outstanding beauty of the area acts as a magnet for walkers, cyclists, fell-runners and those who just come to relax and enjoy the countryside," he says. "Ample, designated picnic areas are surrounded by magnificent countryside, where water and woodland are topped by high moors."

Getting there: Upper Derwent Valley is part of the Peak District National Park, around 15m west of Sheffield (01629 816200; www.peakdistrict.org)



Loch an Eilein

Loch an Eilein on the Rothiemurchus Estate is a scenic loch with a ruined castle set, picturesquely, on an island in its centre. Visitors can picnic anywhere along the three-mile path that rings the loch, though many choose the shoreline just down from the visitor centre. There are chargeable family events running each summer.

Getting there: TheRothiemurchus Estate is just outside Aviemore (01479 812345; www.rothiemurchus. net).

Currently open daily from 9.30am to 5.30pm, entrance is free.





The Royal Forest Route

"Download a guide to the route from the website, pack a hamper of goodies and set out in search of one of the many well-marked picnic spots on this 20- mile circuit of the Forest of Dean," suggests Laurence. "Beechenhurst Lodge Visitor Centre, for example, gives you the chance to walk off your lunch with a stroll around its wonderful Sculpture Trail, while at Mallards Pike there's a lake, picnic area and wonderful views."

Getting there: The Royal Forest Route starts at the Dean Heritage Centre, outside Upper Soudley in Gloucestershire (01594 812388; www.royalforest. info).

For more general information see: www.visitforestofdean.co.uk

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