Wednesday, 18 April 2012

In Praise of Picnics

One of the best things about Downland is that despite being accessible it is often possible to walk just a short distance to find a sense of remoteness among beautiful surroundings.

Recently I've read a couple of books about the South Downs written in the 1920s, and much mention is made of the picnic. It occurred to me while reading that, despite it being a feature of every period drama, the picnic seems to have been left behind in a tide of gastropubs and fast food.

It seems that the picnic as we know it began in the early 19th century, and involved often quite large groups, with outdoor games considered an essential part of the day. Picnics became, in that century, quite a feature of life, art and literature from Dickens's 'The Mystery of Edwin Drood' to Manet's painting 'Le Déjeuner sur l'Herbe' (1865-66).

Of course, the most famous picnics is the Teddy Bear's picnic which entered it's most well-known version in the early 1930s and has been a staple of children's recordings ever since.

Summer will soon be here, despite what the recent weather would have you believe, and I think 2012 should be the year we revive the picnic as the purpose of the walk, not just as an incidental part of a day out.

In these times of economic uncertainty it's a cheap day out for all the family, and with a good walk can be a brilliant way to wear out those energetic little ones during the long summer holidays.

As for the weather - well, I'm not expecting anyone to repeat my effort of a few years ago where I climbed up the Long Man of Wilmington in crampons and ate cheese and pickle butties in a snow scrape sheltered by a gorse bush and surrounded by a pristine, virgin-white landscape - but seize the good days, pack the basket and step out into the countryside.

I have included five routes suitable for picnicking, mostly accessible by public transport, short and long, and all with somewhere nice to sit down, play frisbee and enjoy the best of Downland.

Each link is clickable.

The Henfield Rail and River Picnic Walk (6 miles)

The Cuckmere Haven Picnic Walk (3 miles)

The Kingley Vale Picnic Walk (3 miles)

The Chanctonbury Ring Picnic Walk (8 miles)

The Long Man of Wilmington Picnic Walk (2.3 miles)

1 comment:

  1. I walked to the Long Man last week, although I went via Butts Brow Eastbourne via Jevington (nice pub), then approached "The Man" from above, thus avoiding the need for crampons.


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