It might seem a strange time to be writing about winter picnics in the middle of summer, but given our latest picnic earlier this week was spent sheltering under a tree huddled up in fleece and waterproof jackets, winter doesn’t feel quite so distant. This past winter certainly felt particularly long and wet, conditions conductive to curling up in front of the fire all day. Despite the ongoing gloomy weather outside, I was determined to make the most of getting out on some mini-adventures with Finn. Enter the Winter Picnic.

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Without much conscious thought or planning, I discovered through hindsight that the best way to have fun in the cold and rain was to go out for picnics (honestly!). We must have averaged at least one picnic a week over winter, mostly at our nature spot down by the river (more about our ‘nature spot’ in a future post), sometimes further afield. Sometimes a simple snack and flask of hot chocolate, sometimes a more elaborate affair involving a full spread complete with candles and Christmas crackers. We had picnics to celebrate New Year, the Equinoxes, Mother’s Day or just because.

I discovered that ‘Let’s go out for a picnic’ elucidated a great deal more enthusiasm from the wee one than ‘Let’s go out for a walk’. Even when ‘picnic’ only meant a quick snack while out on a much longer walk. And somehow, it soon became ingrained into the rhythm of our week. The act of picnicking became a regular habit and so easier to implement with my son who all through the winter was struggling with transitions, especially leaving the house.

Our picnics had a surprising impact on me too. Scottish winters are long and dark with a corresponding impact on my general mood. But this year, as January and February dragged on, I wasn’t, as I usually am, pining for the summer. I just kept thinking we’d go on another picnic. I realised I was fairly happy and content with where we were at that moment, without wishing away the winter for the summer. I put it down to the picnics.

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Winter Picnic Tips

Don’t forget a flask of hot chocolate, herbal tea or soup. You’ll want something to warm you up. Your picnic can be as simple as hot chocolate and biscuits or take lunch – hot soup or stew in a thermos, finger foods or cook something at home, wrap it foil or something insulating and eat it warm at your picnic spot. I’ll be honest, we pretty much take the same food we do on a summer picnic but with the addition of a flask with a hot drink.

If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous take a Kelly Kettle or similar, a simple firestarting kit, mugs, tea bags/hot chocolate powder and optional marshmallows to toast after you’ve made your brew. Don’t forget to take some dry kindling along to get things going if it’s been wet. 

Don’t forget plenty of warm, waterproof clothes. Even if it’s not raining, waterproof over trousers are a good idea if you’re going to be sitting or kneeling on damp ground. I always take a spare pair of gloves for my son who normally manages to get his first pair soaked through in about five minutes after leaving home.

Don’t let the rain (or snow!) put you off. Stay close to home so you can bail out if everyone’s getting miserable and even if it’s a very quick walk you’ll feel better for it and it’s a great way for kids to get some fresh air and outdoor time.

A picnic rug works well for dry days but given our wet climate I never go on a winter picnic without a couple of foam ‘sit mats’, picked up at an outdoor shop years ago for £1.50 each.