Al fresco dining

PUBLISHED: 15:31 08 July 2009 | UPDATED: 15:17 20 February 2013

Get out the anorak and the thermos... or the hamper, candelabra and Champagne and have a Shropshire picnic

Get out the anorak and the thermos... or the hamper, candelabra and Champagne and have a Shropshire picnic

You don't have to recreate a medieval hunting feast or a passage from a Jane Austen novel to enjoy a picnic but it is worth making an effort. Location, attire and refreshments are the key words. As an example of a magnificent location, we found an evocative photograph entitled Picnic in a pleasant spot and dated 1947 on the Darwin Country website (www.darwincountry.org) run by Shrewsbury Museums Service. This wonderful website contains more than 13,000 searchable images relating to Charles Darwin as well as information about plants, animals, people and places. But we digress...
The picnic took place at Pitchford Hall, a splendid estate sadly no longer accessible to the general public.
Okay, let's try another location. Shrewsbury Castle is equally magnificent and easily accessible thanks to its town centre location. With some parts dating from 1066 and with an interior remodelled by Thomas Telford, Shrewsbury Castle houses the interesting collections of the Shropshire Regimental Museum Trust. Entry to the grounds is free and they are open seven days a week.
We discovered four members of the cast of Arthur's Plough plus the director taking a break from rehearsals by having a picnic in the Castle grounds. This explains their unusual attire - warm clothing is de rigueur for picnics in British summers.
Part of the Shrewsbury Summer Season '08, Arthur's Plough is a musical play about local organic farmer, Arthur Hollins, is being performed at three locations in Shropshire between June 25 and July 12 (tel: 01630 638696 or 01743 281281). Again, we digress...
Refreshments can be simple, exotic or traditional. From, Pengwern Books in Shrewsbury, we bought 41 Shropshire Recipes by Mary de Saulles. This little book contains instructions for making traditional Shrewsbury Cakes (now more commonly called biscuits) similar to those made by Mr Palin in his premises in Castle Street in the 1800s.
There are, of course, many retailers, markets and farm shops selling local food in Shropshire and gathering the constituents for a picnic should be straightforward. If you want someone else to do the work, the Ludlow Hamper Company is for you. It offers a wide range of picnic hampers stocked with delicious locally produced food. A Perfect Picnic Paradise hamper contains wine, fruit juice, Shropshire Lad beer, cheese, chutney, homemade flapjack, a fruit cake and much more. There are hampers for vegetarians, those with a sweet tooth and picnic parties of any size - all of which can be delivered to your door. Telephone 01952 432175 or visit www.theshropshirehamper.co.uk

For ideas of just a few of the many locations to picnic in Shropshire, read on.

Dudmaston Hall, Quatt, near Bridgnorth, tel: 01746 780866 www.nationaltrust.org.uk
A 17th Century mansion run by the National Trust, it houses many interesting collections and has extensive grounds with country walks. There's an excellent tea shop with tables outside or you can take your own picnic. Dudmaston Hall is open from March to September and is off the A442 Bridgnorth to Kidderminster road.

Espiritu Balloon Flights, tel: 0845 458 2575 www.espiritu-balloonflights.co.uk
For a picnic followed by a thrilling experience, how about a balloon flight? Run by Hannah and Ian Bridge, Espiritu Balloon Flights launches from more than a dozen sites in Shropshire. At many of these, you can enjoy a relaxing picnic while you watching the balloon being prepared and inflated. Then you're up and away with chief pilot, Ian, who has flown all over the world and been British Champion six times.

RAF Museum Cosford, Shifnal, tel: 01902 376200 www.rafmuseum.org
With one of the largest aviation collections in the UK plus missiles, aeroplane engines and motor vehicles, RAF Cosford is an ideal place to visit and have a picnic. The Museum's National Cold War Exhibition is rightly proving enormously popular. There are often events for all the family and on 19 and 20 July, the International Large Model Aircraft Rally is an airshow in miniature.
Entry to the museum is free (admission charges may apply for special events) and it's open 10am to 6pm each day except December 24 to 26 and January 1.
[note: one pic supplied on CD, additional pic requested from RAF Cosford to be sent directly to Becky]

Canal Central, Maesbury Marsh near Oswestry, tel: 01691 652168 www.canalcentral.co.uk
Boasting access by car, cycle, on foot or by canal boat, Canal Central is an ideal picnic location. It sits alongside the Montgomery branch of the Shropshire Union Canal and is a shop, Post Office and tea shop. You can have coffee, loose-leaf tea in teapots and cakes, crumpets and cream teas as well as light meals. In the shop, you'll find everything to make your own picnic - most of it sourced locally. There are wines and bottled beers to choose from alongside fresh bread and ice cream from a neighbouring farm.

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