Eating alfresco – whether you pack your own picnic or prefer to buy-in – allows you to immerse yourself in the natural world. Throw down a blanket, seek out communal seating and enjoy fresh air, wildlife-rich landscapes and magnificent views.
Why go home for lunch when you can eat surrounded by meadows, marsh, woodland and rivers?
Find a place to enjoy a wild picnic
Do a little research in advance and find out some of the best Wildlife Trust reserves to enjoy an alfresco bite.
Cumbria Wildlife Trust
Eycott Hill - A short walk takes you to a viewpoint by a Coronation Meadow that’s packed with colourful wildflowers. Take a picnic break here or adventure on, through the fascinating wetlands, to the summit of Eycott Hill for spectacular views of the northern Lake District fells. There is a waymarked route to the summit from Berrier Road.
Clints Quarry nature reserve - A most amazing secret garden and, with plenty of benches, long grasses and ox-eye daisies, it really is the most idyllic picnic spot. If you’re lucky you might just spot a peregrine whizzing around overhead. Once you’re done with your lunch there’s a lovely walk around the entire nature reserve.
This sheltered quarry, with its profusion of flowers and grasses, is ideal for butterflies. Throughout the summer on sunny days you can find common blue butterflies, orange tip, gatekeeper, ringlet, and meadow brown butterflies.
Hutton Roof Crags nature reserve - The world-class limestone pavement on top of the crags, make a perfect picnic table as you settle in to enjoy the views. After soaking up the 360-degree panorama, take a closer look beneath your picnic rug at the amazing ecosystems in the cracks (grikes) in the pavement. These are home to rare ferns, flowers and insects which, in turn, lure in birds and small mammals – keep your eyes peeled for the kestrels, which are often spotted around here.
In summer you will hear birds such as willow warbler and skylark, along with the resident birds such as nuthatch, greater spotted woodpecker and woodcock.
South Walney nature reserve - Standing at the end of Walney Island it’s hard to know where to look first – north to majestic Black Combe, or out to Piel Island and away across Morecambe Bay. There are picnic benches to enjoy lunch, but if it gets a bit breezy that’s no problem – simply tuck yourself into one of the bird hides. One of the best is at the southern end and here you’ll be able to watch seals play in the bay as the tide comes in.
South Walney nature reserve is open daily between 10am-5pm (4pm in winter).
Lancashire Wildlife Trust
Brockholes nature reserve - On summer days, visitors often take advantage of the stunning views from the picnic site overlooking the floating Visitor Village and Meadow Lake. There are picnic benches and grassy areas allowing people to relax and enjoy long, sunny days eating and drinking their own picnics or prepared sandwiches from the restaurant.
From the picnic area and the restaurant visitors will be able to see great crested grebes nesting, sand martins performing spectacular aerial displays, dragonflies, butterflies and, if you are really lucky, an otter on Meadow Lake.
Northumberland Wildlife Trust
Weetslade Country Park - Located on the outskirts of Newcastle on a strategic wildlife corridor, take your lunch on top of the hill where a drill head sculpture represents the area’s mining past. From this point the breath-taking views to the North Sea and the Cheviot Hills are possible on a clear day. Have your lunch alongside the grey partridge, meadow pipit and skylarks.
Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust
Red Hill - Red Hill is one of the most attractive and interesting fragments of ancient 'sheep walk' downland, which once covered much of the chalk wolds. Some mowing of grassland and verges is undertaken, but when possible the hillside and plateau grassland are grazed by sheep to maintain floristic diversity. Drink in the wildflowers while eating your sandwiches.
Shropshire Wildlife Trust
The Hollies nature reserve - The rugged tors of the Stiperstones attract thousands of visitors. Why not try the bit where the tourists don’t go? Park at Snailbeach village hall, walk up through the most intact lead mine in Britain, climb up the hill and you’ll reach The Hollies. Here you’ll find 500 of Europe’s oldest holly trees. Feel free to picnic under any one.
This is an unbelievably peaceful spot, with magnificent views east to the Long Mynd, west to Snowdonia and north across the Shropshire and Cheshire Plain. Go for a short walk to see the renovated lead miners’ cottages, or the extraordinary ancient trees at Brook Vessons. Keep walking to sample the local speciality whinberry (bilberry) pie or muffins at the Stiperstones Inn, or Bog visitor centre.
Avon Wildlife Trust
Folly Farm nature reserve - The Chew Valley is renowned for delicious Somerset produce and local farm shops provide the perfect snacks for a picnic. The view from East Hill is particularly lovely, overlooking Folly Farm nature reserve across the Chew Valley Lake – an internationally important site for wildfowl.
Work up an appetite by walking through the reserve’s 250-acre bluebell-rich woodland, complete with a badger sett and fox cubs, and up across wildflower meadows, where deer and hare are often seen, as well as an array of butterflies. The nature reserve offers ample free car parking, electric car charging points, toilet facilities and way-marked trails, varying from 30 minutes to two hours.
Devon Wildlife Trust
Meeth Quarry - To find the picnic spot, follow the main route through the nature reserve, from the car park, until you reach the gate on to the Tarka Trail. Cross the Trail through a second gate then turn right following the line of a pond until you reach a bench carved in the shaped of dragonfly.
Look across the pond to see emperor dragonflies and azure damselflies while silver washed fritillary and common blue butterflies flutter round the bench. Also listen out for tree pipits and willow tits from the woodland edge. The nature reserve offers toilets on site and an easy access path.
Bystock Pools nature reserve - To find the picnic spot from the southern entrance to the reserve, follow the boardwalk round the edge of the large pond until you reach the benches. Look out for little grebe on the open water and golden-ringed dragonflies flying over the surface.
A series of boardwalks allow you to get a close look at the lakes and wet heathland, whilst climbing the slopes of the nature reserve’s valley you can see heather dominating the terrain before entering a huge meadow alive with butterflies. Listen out for stonechats and yellowhammer which can be heard from the heathland behind the benches.
Dorset Wildlife Trust
Stonehill Down Nature Reserve is high on the chalk ridge running west/east across the Isle of Purbeck. This downland reserve has far-reaching views across the Wareham Forest to the west, with Poole Harbour to the east. The short, chalk rich grassland here is perfect for a picnic rug.
Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust
Elliott (Swift’s Hill) - The local landmark with its distinctive double ‘bump’ is immortalised in Laurie Lee’s Cider with Rosie. The limestone grassland supports over 130 species of wildflowers including 13 types of orchid. Sit down, eat and relax as you watch kestrels soar overhead.
Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust
St Catherine's Hill - St Catherine’s is a fantastic spot to enjoy 25 species of butterfly, rare orchids, ancient monuments and the most spectacular views over Winchester and the surrounding countryside. The short downland turf is rich in wildflowers or herbs such as bird’s-foot trefoil, salad burnet and dropwort. A square metre of turf will contain over 20 different flowers – so nestle up with your picnic blanket and enjoy.
Herefordshire Wildlife Trust
Lower House Farm Nature Reserve - Buy Herefordshire Wildlife Trust 'Orchard Origins' apple juice from the reception area in Lower House Farm - the largest standing Jacobean building in Herefordshire - then stroll up to the gorgeous traditional orchard overlooking the Lugg Meadows, England’s largest surviving Lammas meadow.
Enjoy your picnic under the apple blossom looking out for rare marsh tits, lesser whitethroats and the nationally rare noble chafer beetle. Work up an appetite or walk-off your lunch by meandering across the Lammas meadows to enjoy an endless sight of buttercups, green wooded hills and the beautiful Lugg river that sparkles with iridescent banded demoiselles and water crows foot.
Lower House Farm Nature Reserve can be found on the Ledbury Road, in Tupsley on the eastern outskirts of Hereford. There is ample parking in the secluded layby, and the orchard is easily accessed behind the timber framed farm house. A public footpath enters the Lugg Meadows immediately below the orchard, where visitors can walk for hours among one of the largest flower meadows in England.
London Wildlife Trust
Totteridge Fields - Part of one of London's last remaining tracts of traditional countryside, Totteridge Fields and its environs are a beautiful place for a spring or summer picnic. Butterflies are abundant and sedges can be found in the ditches that provide valuable shelter for amphibians. Escape from the city and immerse yourself in a patchwork of flowers and grass.
Saltbox Hill- The long west-facing bank of Saltbox Hill overlooks a hidden dry chalk valley near Biggin Hill, close to London’s border with Surrey and Kent. The world-famous naturalist Charles Darwin lived nearby and the abundant wildlife he found in the surrounding landscape was said to have been an inspiration for his evolutionary theories. Perhaps he also used this mesmerising location as a secret picnic spot. Pack your snacks and head for the the Hanbury Drive entrance as it is easiest to reach by car and public transport.
Surrey Wildlife Trust
St Martha’s Hill - The sandy hillside is a mixture of woodland and chalk grassland and is home to a variety of reptiles, birds and mammals. Local parishioners walk each Sunday to St Martha's Church at the top of the hill. From the ancient churchyard you can see eight counties on a clear day! Park at Guildford Lane or Halfpenny Lane and be prepared for a steep climb.
Newlands Corner is a popular nature reserve with superb views of the surrounding countryside. Lying on the chalk ridge of the North Downs, there are wide spaces of open chalk downland and peaceful woodlands to explore. In spring and summer, the chalk grassland is a spectacular carpet of wild flowers - this is a perfect picnic spot with fine views across the Weald to the ridge of the South Downs. Newlands Corner offers ample free car parking with a café, visitor centre, toilet facilities and way-marked trails varying from 45 minutes to three hours.
Essex Wildlife Trust
Abberton Reservoir visitor centre and nature reserve - Picnic benches in the meadow next to Essex Wildlife Trust's visitor centre boast close, panoramic views of this large reservoir, which is a haven for birds, especially wildfowl. In late spring, you can see common terns over the water, wading birds on the reservoir fringes and hundreds of ducks and swans on the water. Swifts, swallows and martins feed overhead, where you may also be lucky enough to see hobby and marsh harrier.
Next to the picnic area, there is a wildlife-themed children's play area, a viewing mound for elevated views of the reservoir, and multi-access paths to a number of bird hides. The visitor centre has a terrace overlooking the water.
Thurrock Thameside Nature Park - This former landfill site is now home to a dramatic visitor centre, which boasts wonderful views over the Thames Estuary and a beautiful grassland reserve. Sit on the picnic benches and you will be serenaded by dozens of skylarks, while on the estuary, look for shelduck and terns. Outside, next to the picnic benches, there is a wildlife and nautically-themed children's play area, multi-access paths and bird hides.
Norfolk Wildlife Trust
Cley Marshes nature reserve - Located on the north Norfolk coast, Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s Cley Marshes nature reserve is the oldest Wildlife Trust reserve in the UK and part of an 8km stretch of coastline in conservation care. A deck with picnic benches looks out over wader pools, reed beds, grazing marshes and all the way out to the shingle beach and the sea.
The café in the centre provides wonderful hot and cold locally sourced lunches, plus drinks, cakes and ice cream – perfect to enjoy while watching the reed beds for marsh harriers, the pools for avocets and the fantastic spoonbills in summer, and the skies for many, many more birds.
Suffolk Wildlife Trust
Captain’s Wood - This is a great spot for a picnic if you like to be far from the madding crowd. You might share a dusk picnic with a hunting barn owl, or you could watch the hares or the large herd of fallow deer that are often seen at this beautiful, ancient woodland. Pick a spot under one of the ancient oak pollards or in a sunlit glade to soak up the tranquillity and birdsong. The woodland is tucked away near Orford on the Suffolk coast, it has a few parking spots and way marked trails.
Brecknock Wildlife Trust
Allt Rhongyr & Craig y Rhiwarth nature reserve - Allt Rhongyr is within the Brecon Beacons National Park and offers dramatic views of the Tawe Valley. Enter at the top field gate and enjoy an almost level walk to your picnic spot on top of a flower-strewn crag or under a wizened old hawthorn with views of the sleeping giant (on a good day).
Those up for a longer walk can make their way to the ancient hill fort at the far end of the reserve. From here you’ll have panoramic views over Craig Y Rhiwarth Nature Reserve, a steep and inaccessible cliff. Below you’ll see Craig Y Nos Country Park and Adelina Patty’s pavilion.
Toilets and a café and some picnic supplies can be bought here. Take the lane sign-posted Penwyllt where there is another car park and room to easily turn around. Park considerately by the main gate or lower down where the road is wider. There are friendly horses in the field but don’t open your picnic if they are nearby as you’ll get no peace – and please, don't feed them.
Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust
Roundton Hill - A great place to enjoy a summer picnic if you can walk to the top! The views from the summit of this 1,200ft hill are spectacular at any time of year and it’s easy to see why an Iron Age Hillfort was once sited here. At one time bats may have played a part in ancient rituals but today they are protected in roosts within the entrances to the old mines.
Glaslyn - Visiting Glaslyn is a true mountain experience, giving a sense of wilderness and isolation. Walking through the reserve, you will appreciate the landscape of the Welsh mountains and the reserve’s lake, bogs, heathland and steep ravine. All culminating in a breathtaking view of the Dyfi Estuary
Lose yourself in wild Welsh wilderness as you picnic by the lake at Glaslyn, an integral part of the Cambrian Mountains, surrounded by a large expanse of heather moorland. Look out for the lake’s speciality, quillwort, which often washes up on the lake shore after bad weather. Glaslyn can be breathtaking at any time of year but is especially beautiful during July and August when the nature reserve turns purple with flowering heather.
Llanymynech - Llanymynech Rocks straddles the border between England and Wales and while it is spectacular at any time of the year, it is during spring and summer that it is at its most vibrant. Picnic at the viewpoint and look up for the chance of seeing peregrine falcon.Listen for green woodpecker and spot the common spotted orchid, common blue, pearl bordered and wall brown butterflies.
Llyn Coed y Dinas - Created from a gravel pit, quarried to provide material for the creation of the Welshpool bypass, Llyn Coed y Dinas is a fantastic home for all sorts of wildlife.
Some call the reserve home all year round, while others visit at specific times of the year, either to breed and raise their young or to shelter from the winter weather. Some prefer to use the site as a ‘wildlife service station’, dropping in for a rest and a meal before heading off elsewhere. Why don’t you join them and refuel on the wonder of the natural world.
Radnorshire Wildlife Trust
Gilfach nature reserve - With easy parking and 400 acres to explore, there are plenty of places to set up your picnic and enjoy wildlife in Radnorshire Wildlife Trust’s Gilfach Nature Reserve in the heart of rural Mid-Wales. Find picnic tables in the alcoves around the gently landscaped parking area but if you feel a bit more adventurous why not head off up the hillside opposite?
Follow the waymark signs and once you’ve found a nice rock to take a rest, sit and enjoy the stunning views. On a sunny day, butterflies should be flitting about the heather and grasses. Drive or walk a bit further up the road to the peaceful old farmyard where there are toilets (including disabled) and an information point in the old byre. The reserve is just off the A470 seven miles south of Llangurig and three miles north of Rhayader, tucked away at the edge of the Cambrian Mountain range.
Scottish Wildlife Trust
Falls of Clyde Visitor Centre and Wildlife Reserve - The visitor centre building here is part of the New Lanark World Heritage Site and the adjacent reserve follows the River Clyde with its wonderful waterfalls. The first thing that strikes you about the Falls of Clyde is the sheer volume of water flowing down the river.
The designated picnic site within the New Lanark World Heritage site offers a wealth of lovely, scenic walks with plenty of wildlife once you get on to the reserve. The opportunity to see the beautiful peregrine falcons is one that shouldn’t be missed!
Loch Ardinning Wildlife Reserve - Loch Ardinning offers beautiful views of Ben Lomond. With its combination of loch and woodland in a setting of open heather moor, which includes Muirhouse Muir, this area is both a delight to the eye and fascinating to the naturalist. Visit between May and July for wildflowers and breeding birds.
Roslin Glen Wildlife Reserve - Close to Edinburgh and a short distance south of the village, Roslin Glen reserve sits within a lovely glen with a river flowing through. It’s an area of semi-natural ancient woodland including oak, ash, hazel, cherry and hawthorn growing along a steep-sided glen.
Carstramon Wood Wildlife Reserve - This is the perfect place to look for the elusive red squirrel as you enjoy a traditional ‘blanket on the ground’ picnic. This stunning woodland – also home to pied flycatcher, redstart, wood and willow warbler – is renowned for its amazing display of bluebells and early June is the best time to see them in all their glory.
If you can't get to these places
Can’t see a reserve close to you? Contact your Wildlife Trust for advice on a suitable and beautiful place to visit or make the most of your own garden or local park.
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