Great Garden of New Place
Before watching one of the RSC's fabulous matinee performances, what could be better than a traditional picnic, asks Mark Price. To escape at least some of the crowds, head to the Great Garden of New Place at the back ofNash's House (it has links to Shakespeare and is now a local-history museum).
Getting there: The Great Garden ofNew Place is off Chapel Street in Stratford-on-Avon. Currently open from 10am to 5pm, entrance costs £9 (01789 292325; www.shakespeare.org.uk).
For more general information visit www.shakespeare-country.co.uk
"This is one of my favourite places to escape towhen I'm in the city," says Laurence. "Find a spot on the brow of the hill, spread out your blanket and enjoy the peace and quiet with a bottle of wine and a baguette. It's perfect for a spot of post-picnic kite-flying or Frisbee and, if it gets too hot, take a dip in Hampstead Heath ponds or the 1930s lido to cool off". Mark Scott agrees, adding that Parliament Hill boasts "great views over the capital".
Getting there: Parliament Hill is on the south side of Hampstead Heath, in London, with open access.
"In terms of urban sites, Bede Park has a lot to offer," says Laurence. "It's ideal for families – with 1.9 hectares for children to run around in, it contains a Mediterranean-style plaza, plenty of public art, seating around a central performance area and toddler and junior play areas. But the pièce de résistance is the giant slide – one of the largest in the UK. I suggest the children try it before they've eaten their picnic."
Getting there: Bede Park is in the Castle Park area of Leicester, with open access (0116 252 7000; www.leicester.gov.uk)
St Paul's Square
This pretty Georgian square has an elegant, Grade I-listed church at its heart – and plenty of grass to spread out a picnic blanket. Within easy walking distance of Birmingham city centre, it's a peaceful refuge at the heart of the city's regenerated jewellery quarter.
Getting there: St Paul's Square is around a mile northwest of Birmingham city centre. The nearby Museum of the Jewellery Quarter is well worth a visit (0121-554 3598; www.birmingham. gov.uk)
Russia Dock Woodland
This long, thin park in Rotherhithe was formed in 1980 when a former dock (which was originally used for importing timber fromNorway, Russia and Sweden – hence the name) was infilled and planted as a 35-acre woodland. An artificial hill, Stave Hill, was later added and it's now a popular picnic spot for those in the know.
Getting there: the closest Tube station is Canada Water, with open access.
For more information visit www.russiadockwood.ukfriends.com
Ashton Court Park
"Only 10 minutes'walk out of Bristol, across the famous suspension bridge, there are fantastic views and sunsets at this council-run park," says Evie. "There's also a herd of red deer ambling around the 850 acres of woodland and meadows, ready to polish off your picnic leftovers if you're not careful," she warns.
Getting there: Ashton Park estate is southeast of Bristol city centre, with free access (0117-963 9174; www.bristol.gov.uk)
Belfast Botanic Gardens
If you like your al fresco feasts surrounded by manicured grounds rather than wild greenery, "it's well worth hunting out the Botanic Gardens in Belfast", promises Evie. "They are right in the middle of the city, with a spectacular glass palm house and lots of imaginative planting all around."
Getting there: The gardens are currently open from 7.30am to 9pm, with free access (028 9032 0202; www.belfastcity.gov.uk)
"Oxford is a great place to go for a picnic," says Danny. If you want to escape the bigger crowds, however, "the largest park area in town is Port Meadow, which is bordered on one side by the Thames. Stroll along the riverside until you find your ideal picnic spot". You could also stop off at one of the pleasant waterside pubs between here and Wolvercote.
Getting there: Port Meadow is accessed from Walton Well Road in the Jericho area of the city. Entrance is free.
Water of Leith
Wander along the Water of Leith walkway and you get a fresh perspective on the Scottish capital. This 12-mile, wildliferich riverside path cuts a scenic route through the centre of Edinburgh, and there are plenty of places to picnic along the way. Obvious places to pause include the section near the city's Botanic Gardens and Spylaw Park.
Visit: www.waterofleith. org.uk
Anyone looking to picnic in Newcastle or Gateshead next month might want to take a tip from the Tokyo Picnic Club,whose mission – dubbed "Picnopolis" – is to create perfect picnic spots in unlikely places. The largest site will be an 85-foot lawn of grass, in the shape of an aeroplane, touching down in Baltic Square from August 16 to 25.
Getting there: Baltic Square is on Gateshead Quays.
For information on Picnopolis visit www.picnicclub.org