Top tips for National Picnic Week

It’s time to celebrate that great British tradition of eating outdoors, come rain or shine….it’s National Picnic Week!

You know it’s summer when the slightest hint of sunshine makes everyone roll out the picnic rug, brave the wasps or put up with sand in their sandwiches and enjoy a picnic. Next week is National Picnic Week (13th – 21st June 2015) so we’ve compiled our own top tips for perfect alfresco feasts.

Pick a gorgeous location

The beauty of picnics is you can do them almost anywhere – as long as it’s outdoors. Try not to fall foul of eating your sandwiches in the car park or on the roadside (which we can only imagine is done when you’ve just no time or energy to find a better spot). Picnics are about getting back to nature, feeling the grass or sand between your toes, and breathing in the fresh air. Everything tastes better alfresco!

Rhossili Bay ©CCSpCW

If you don’t mind a bit of sand getting everywhere (and it will!), a beach is a fantastic picnic spot. Our favourites are the more wild, remote beaches (check out Britain’s best wild beaches for inspiration) including the expansive sands of Holkham beach in North Norfolk where even on a busy day you’ll be able to find a decent sized spot of your own. We also love Rhossili Bay in Wales’ Swansea Bay – described by some as Britain’s best beach and by poet Dylan Thomas as “very near nowhere”.

You can also picnic urban style, particularly as our towns and cities are some of the greenest with well-kept parks and green spaces. London has a phlethora of green spots to choose from including the enormous Richmond Park and Hampstead Heath to tiny community gardens and recreation grounds in every borough. For a central location, we like St James Park for its lakes, wildflower patches, undulating grass and resident pelicans!

Hampstead Heath
Hampstead Health, London

Go wildlife spotting

National Picnic Week is encouraging children to get closer to nature and explore their natural surroundings. Visit their website to download a copy of their brilliant Picnic Week Scavenger Hunt – see how many birds, insects, leaves and more you can find when you’re out on a picnic.

Pack a lovely picnic kit

Don’t forget essential kit such as a sharp knife, corkscrew and cloths to wipe mouths (and plates etc). Plenty of water is a must as well as sunscreen, insect repellent and an umbrella or two (don’t let the weather scupper your plans, just be prepared!).

The fun stuff comes with what to eat off and drink out of. We love the outdoor dining and picnic accessories from the eco-friendly brand Yours Sustainably. From beautifully handpainted stainless steel cups to bamboo bowls and spoons, we want the lot!

picnic accessories from Yours Sustainably

Create some inspired picnic food

Yes, you can grab ready-to-eat pre-packaged picnic food from a supermarket, or (much better) buy a few handmade edibles from your local deli or farmers’ market. But if you’re preparing the day ahead, why not use it as an excuse to create a few new foodie delights in kitchen? We like ‘A Perfect Day for a Picnic’ by Tori Finch featuring 80 recipes to share with family and friends. We’re also fans of the Guardian’s ‘Cook’ supplement, often filled with plenty of delicious snack and lunch ideas that make great picnic fare.

The National Picnic Week website is full of great ideas including beautiful picnic spots, fun and games, recipes, advice and more. Visit www.nationalpicnicweek.co.uk. Share news and pics of your alfresco adventures on Twitter using the hashtag #picnicweek.

3 of the best farm stays near the Scottish border

This post is sponsored by Lakes Cottage Holidays

Now that the politics surrounding the England-Scotland border are over (for now), the wild landscapes and historic towns let this beautiful area speak for itself…

A stay at one of these self-catering cottages, all on working farms, makes a great base to explore the countryside around the England-Scotland border and nearby Lake District. Here’s our pick of three of the best farm stays…

Williamwood Cottage, Lockerbie, Scottish Borders

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Williamwood Cottage is perfect for families coming fully equipped with cot, highchair and baby bath, alongside wifi and a wood burning stove for cosy evenings. Garden furniture and BBQ are available for warm summer days.

Located on a 310 acre farm, which previously won the RSPB Nature of Farming award for Scotland, this is a great cottage for those who love nature. By farming with conservation in mind, this land is abundant with birdlife, much of which you can spot from several wildlife trails around the site.

The owners will be happy to introduce you to their herd of Highland cattle, Highland ponies, sheep, chickens and Tottie the mini pig! A new children’s playground boasts a petting area with mini animals. Take a horse ride around the farm or even bring your own four-legged friend (arrange with the owners in advance).

The surrounding area is full of historic sites including Robert Burns House, the Old Blacksmith’s Shop at Gretna (famed for its weddings and eloping lovers!), Hadrian’s Wall and Hermitage Castle.

Size: 3 bedrooms, sleeps 6
Rates: From £530 per week

Wild Rose Cottage, Jedburgh, Scottish Borders

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Wild Rose Cottage is set in a peaceful and tranquil site on a 1,100 acre working farm. It comes fully equipped with all mod cons including wifi, a cot and highchair for little ones, plus an open fire. A welcome tray of homemade cakes awaits you on arrival!

Part of the farm, which is mainly home to 2,000 sheep, is within a conservation scheme which encourages ground nesting birds. Explore the farmland and spot buzzards, badgers and deer on one of the many farm trails, or take a stroll down to one of the many ponds.

The nearby town of Jedburgh is the historic gateway to Scotland and is dominated by the twelfth century Augustinian Abbey. Edinburgh, Carlisle and Newcastle are all within an hour’s drive of the cottage.

Size: 2 bedrooms, sleeps 5
Rates: From £320 per week

Red Stables, Aikton, nr Carlisle

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This farm building conversion is stylish and contemporary but retains many of its original, early twentieth century features. Boasting green credentials, the property includes underfloor heating sourced from the farm’s biomass boiler, a charging point for electric cars, and is insulated to the highest standards.

One stand-out selling point is that you can enjoy stunning views across to the Lakeland Fells from your own private hot tub on the patio! But if you ever tire of lazing around in the hot tub (when would that be?!), you can also enjoy complementary use of the swimming pool at nearby Orton Grange Leisure Pool.

Two miles away is the Watchtree Nature Service where red squirrels and bats can be spotted. Hadrian’s Wall, Carlisle and the Lake District are all within easy reach with a car.

Size: 2 bedrooms, sleeps 4
Rates: From £440 per week

For more details, availability and booking for all properties mentioned, visit Lakes Cottage Holidays at www.lakescottageholiday.co.uk or call 0176 883 8103. Browse the site for romantic bolt holes, luxury pads, log cabins, dog-friendly holiday homes, properties with a view and much more.

This post is sponsored by Lakes Cottage Holidays – Goodtrippers retains editorial control over all content and only selects partners and publishes sponsored posts that fit the Goodtrippers ethos.

 

Get ready for Spring at Gladwins Farm Cottages, Suffolk

Looking for the perfect family holiday for this Spring? Eco-friendly, dog friendly and family friendly, a getaway at Gladwins Farm Cottages is more than just a countryside retreat…

Set within 22-acres of beautiful countryside in Suffolk, just a short drive from London and a stone’s throw from the coast, Gladwins Farm comprises nine tastefully renovated cottages suitable for couples and families.

With beautiful surroundings and facilities aplenty, you can relax and unwind in your very own rural retreat. With dogs welcome, the family pooch need not miss out on a holiday too!

Gladwins Farm, Suffolk (1)

Accommodation

The retreat includes nine cottages of various sizes sleeping 2 to 8. All the accommodation at Gladwins Farm has been refurbished to a high standard and decked out with all the latest mod cons including White Company linen, ipod docks and Nespresso machines. Some of the cottages boast their own private hot tubs.

Everything is provided for babies and children, including a selection of toys on request.

Gladwins Farm, Suffolk (3)

Facilities

Beyond the cottages is an indoor swimming pool, games room, indoor and outdoor play areas, a tennis court, farm animals to feed and woodland walking trails. Also on site is a beauty spa and a small shop selling local food and delicious ready meals for easy catering.

Gladwins Farm has won awards for its eco-credentials and all the electricity powering the cottages and heating the pool is supplied by solar power, while the heating is run off a biomass wood-chip boiler.

Gladwins Farm, Suffolk (4)

In the surrounding area

You can really get back to nature at Gladwins Farm – go on a woodland walk or take a bike ride around the countryside. Or for a day out, Gladwins Farm is located just 15 minutes from Colchester, the oldest recorded town with its castle and historical sites. Colchester Zoo is also nearby, as well as Hedingham Castle, historic Lavenham and the Essex coast.

  • ‘Good’ credentials:
    The installation of 210 solar photovoltaic panels which enables Gladwins Farm to product all its own power over the year
  • Installation of a biomass wood chip boiler – this system heats the farm’s cottages as well as the indoor pool, with much of the wood chip material coming from our own grounds. with the remainder bought locally
  • Fair Trade tea and coffee is provided
  • Investment in energy efficient lighting, heating and white goods has helped cut energy consumption significantly and, by using locally sourced food and services wherever possible, the farm has extended its green principles to the wider community, benefitting the local economy as well as the environment
  • The farm provides on-site recycling for waste materials and facilities for the composting of organic kitchen waste through a local service partner

 

Recommended for… Families with children of all ages, groups looking for a rural retreat, couples who love the countryside, dog-owners who like to take their pooch on holiday with them.

Be aware that… Peak holiday times might be busy with families and children so if you’re looking for a romantic Easter or summer holiday break, this might not be the place. The farm is also short distance from shops, pubs and restaurants so a car is advised.

Price and availability: Prices start from as little as £30pppn and you can choose from a 3, 4 or 7 night break. For further details plus contact and booking, visit www.gladwinsfarm.co.uk

Gladwins Farm, Suffolk (2)

Rubbish in a new light at Totally Thames festival, London

Salvaged art and river clear-ups, inspiring free events at the inaugural Totally Thames festival

For the whole of September, over 100 events will take place along the 42 miles of London’s River Thames. The Totally Thames season is full of great events for all ages – from river races, floating cinema, cultural crawls, archeology talks, exhibitions, tall ships, guided walks….the list is endless! Goodtrippers has picked out a few eco-friendly events to get you started…

‘River Works’, an exhibition by Jacques Limousin (5 – 7 Sept)

French sculptor and architect Jacques Limousin has long been fascinated with the flotsam and jetsom that washes up on the shores of our rivers. His years spent scouring the banks of the River Thames, picking up Mediaeval German beer mugs, Roman coins and random pieces of glass, metal, brick and bones have now been turned into witty and unexpected pieces of art. See the results at this free exhibition – you’ll never see rubbish in the same light again!

Date/Time/Location: FREE – 10am – 5pm daily, 5-7 Sept 2014. The Crystal, Royal Victoria Dock, London E16 1GB

The Big Thames Tidy, picture by Jenna Foxton
The Big Thames Tidy, picture by Jenna Foxton

The Big Thames Tidy (31 Aug – 1 Sept)

Don your rubber gloves and wellies this coming weekend and help clean up the River Thames! Well, not exactly the whole river but The Big Thames Tidy with Thames 21, part of London’s Totally Thames festival, aims to bring together volunteers of all ages in one of the biggest events of its kind. Help clear litter and tidy up the Thames banks with other like-minded river lovers. You’ll also get a chance to hear more about the history and ecology of London’s famous river in this two-day event.

Date/Time/Location: FREE – 10.30am – 1pm, 31 Aug-1 Sept 2014. No need to book, just meet at Gabriel’s Wharf foreshore via the steps to Gabriel’s Wharf, London SE1 9PH

Cleaner Thames Challenge (1 Sept)

The Isle of Dogs is one of the most littered parts of the River Thames with plastic bags and other debris posing a real threat to bird and marine wildlife – so help out by joining in with a big litter clean-up at this free event! No need to book, just bring suitable clothing and footwear, plus lots of enthusiasm!

Date/Time/Location: FREE – 11am – 1.30pm, 1 Sept 2014. Meet at Newcastle Draw Dock, Isle of Dogs, London E14 3BW

For more information about all of the events during the Totally Thames season visit www.totallythames.org

Get down on the farm at the Purbeck Folk Festival

We love a good music festival and this little boutique gem is an award-winner!

The sixth annual Purbeck Folk Festival, on Dorset’s beautiful Jurassic coast, is the place to be this bank holiday weekend. From 21-24 August the award-winning music festival features headline acts including Eddi Reader, The South, Turin Brakes and Lloyd Cole alongside Nizlopi, Idlewild Acoustic, Sally Barker and British folk legend Chris Wood.

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Festival goers can look forward to an eclectic mix of folk, world and pop music on a 600-acre working sheep farm in the heart of the beautiful Isle of Purbeck. Purbeck Folk Festival has music on four stages in the farm’s covered barns and a marquee venue that hosts the Purbeck Rising talent show final and open mic sessions.

Named the Countryside Music Festival of the Year in the prestigious Fatea Music Awards, as well as a line-up of well-known artists you can expect a dynamic bill of emerging and undiscovered talent including Emily Barker’s new band Vena Portae, folk legend Ashley Hutchings’ son Blair Dunlop, the Cajun powerhouse Sarah Savoy, multi award-winner Martha Tilston and Senegalese griot Amadou Diagne.

This family-friendly festival has a chilled-out vibe and offers loads of entertainment for all ages, including workshops, a poetry slam, spontaneous happenings, a cinema programme, the famous ‘beard offs’ contest, a beer festival (including the Festival’s very own beer, Buzz Lightbeer made with Purbeck honey), art interventions and a fancy dress parade.

Like all the best festivals, Purbeck Folk Festival likes to keep it green. All campers will be given recycling bags to collect their recyclable rubbish over the weekend; the composting toilets on site provide great fertiliser for the farm, and flush toilets use harvested rainwater. The organisers employ local tradespeople and try and reuse as much stored material as possible when constructing the new festival site each year, reusing lycra, bamboo, wood, paint, carpet and fabrics from previous years.

Snap up your tickets before 20th August: Weekend tickets (Fri-Sun) include free camping are on sale at just £100 (£50 12-17 years, £20 4-11 years, under 4s free). Day camping is available on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday at £10 a night on arrival. A limited number of Festival day tickets are also available.

For ticket booking and more information, visit www.purbeckfolk.co.uk

Full line-up

Friday
Eddi Reader, Nizlopi, Martha Tilston Band, Furrow Collective, ODi, Dan Whitehouse, Moscow Drug Club, Flats & Sharps, Macaferri Club, Winter Mountain, Murphy’s Lore, Drew Allen, Big Tent & the Gypsy Lantern, Kadia, Beth Johnstone, Tim Somerfield, East Creek Union, Djambo, The Jack Ratts, Threadbare Ravens, Tred, Aimee McKenzie

Saturday
The South, Idlewild Acoustic, Sally Barker, Sarah Savoy, Phil King Band, Gigspanner, Martha Tilston Band, Roving Crows, John Langan Band, Gren Bartley Band, 4Square, ODi, Lizzie Nunnery, Louise Jordan, Threepenny Bit, Sarah Savoy (workshop), Sound of the Sirens, Macaferri Club, Big Tent & the Gypsy Lantern, Kadia, Mother Ukers, Catherine Burke Band, Feral Beryl, Kaia Vieira, Aimee McKenzie

Sunday
Turin Brakes, Lloyd Cole, Blair Dunlop, Emily Barker & the Red Clay Halo, Caravan of Thieves, Coco & the Butterfields, Chris Wood, Amadou Diagne Band, Gren Bartley Band, Vena Portae, Alex Roberts, Tinderbox, Polly Paulusma, Fearne, Aimee MacKenzie, Ian Brown, Will McNicol, Flats & Sharps, Gill Sandell, Emily Barker (solo), Tori Read, Kate Lomas, The Jimmy Hillbillies, Ceilidh Band, Quinns Quinney, Krista Green, Inu

Longhorn Farm, Devon – perfect for big get-togethers

This stunning luxury eco property has ample room so no excuse not to book a huge get-together with family or friends this year!

Longhorn Farm, in the Dartmoor village of North Bovey in Devon, has been renovated throughout and oozes contemporary eco style. An awesome raised ceiling and glass walls ensure this home is flooded with light and offers an uplifting stay whether it’s summer or winter.

Sleeping up to 14 guests across the main house and converted milking barn, the self-catering property is set in 58 acres of land including 20 acres of ancient bluebell woods, lakes, waterfalls and wildflower pasture. It gives plenty of opportunity for guests to enjoy their own space, allow children to play freely and then convene in the large communal living areas at Longhorn.

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Accommodation

The main farmhouse has four bedrooms; two king-size double rooms with en suites, plus a twin room and a zip-and-link bedroom which can either be arranged as a twin or super-king double as required. The twin room and the zip-and-link room share a shower room. The adjacent milking barn has a king-size room plus a bunk room on the ground floor (with shared ground floor wet room), as well as a master king-size bedroom on the first floor with en suite. Each of the seven bedrooms are peppered with stylish touches throughout.

Facilities

Families are more than welcome here with cots, highchairs and a safe garden all available. Wifi and iPod docks are also present throughout. Hang-out in the garden with the barbecue on sunny days or gather around the fire pit to toast marshmallows on cooler evenings.

On request, you also have the option to book in-house caterers, spa treatments and welcome hampers full of gastronomic goodies.

The surrounding area is a walking paradise with Dartmoor National Park to explore, plus quaint Devon villages and the coastline.

‘Good’ credentials:

  • Underfloor heating via a ground source heat pump
  • Solar panels also provide power
  • Water supplied via natural spring

 

For more information, including prices, availability and booking, visit Unique Home Stays at www.uniquehomestays.com
 

7 of the best…Eco-friendly family days out

Make the most of the summer holidays we have left with some of the UK’s best eco-friendly family days out

Eden Project, CornwallEden Project, Cornwall – Did you know that the huge biomes of the Eden Project house the largest ‘captive’ rainforest? This ever-popular attraction, which aims to run its operations as greenly as possible, is also a hot-house of conservation research. Enjoy the view from the treetops on the new Aerial Walkway, and spot butterflies fluttering amongst the plant life. This summer join some the special family activities including den building, ‘Be the Bee’ interactive trails, art workshops, musical evenings and England’s longest (and fastest) zipwire. Remember to book your tickets online before you visit to save 15% on the entry price. Visit www.edenproject.com.

National Wildflower Centre, Liverpool Five miles from Liverpool city centre is this wildflower haven founded by environmental charity Landlife. This tranquil, family-friendly venue promotes the benefits of planting and maintaining wildflower habitats. There are various free family activities taking place over summer including ‘Mini Beasts and Crafts’ sessions and ‘Wear Your Wellies’ walks. Visit www.nwc.org for more.

The Wildlife TrustsThe Wildlife Trusts’ nature reserves, UK-wide Ancient woodland, coast and beaches, mountains,meadows or marshes, from Southwest England to northern Scotland, there are around 2,300 nature reserves across the UK managed by conservation charity The Wildlife Trusts. Not only do these reserves offer a ‘back to basics’ day out for families (exploring nature doesn’t need to be forced!), but the 47 (mainly) county-based Wildlife Trusts run children’s events throughout the holidays. Join butterfly and bug workshops, nature trails, bat walks or practical conservation sessions. Visit www.wildlifetrusts.org to find your local reserve or visitor centre.

 

The Llama Park, East SussexNew owners Bobby and Susan are dedicated to ensuring their 50 llamas, 20 alpacas, and two reindeer live a stress-free, happy and peaceful life in the 32 acres of beautiful parkland near the Ashdown Forest. There’s no commercialism here, just a lovely chance to meet and learn about these gentle creatures. The park is run with minimal impact on the environment with recycling and low energy use in operation. The cafe serves local produce and some organic options. Visit www.llamapark.co.uk for summer opening times.

 Stockley Farm Park, Cheshire This organic farm is well-equipped for little visitors. The day starts with a tractor ride into the farm, followed by a stop-off at the animal sheds to see pigs, cows, goats and more. Get involved with bottle-feeding lambs and baby goats (kids – just not those kids), visit pets corner, watch bird of prey displays, and witness milking time. Take a woodland nature walk, then finish the day sampling the local and organic produce in Willow Barn Tearoom. Visit www.stockleyfarm.co.uk for more details. There are plenty of farms open to visitors around the country – visit the National Farm Attractions Network to find one near you.

BeWILDerwood, NorfolkBeWILDerwood, Norfolk – Down by the Norfolk Broads is an award-winning forest of adventure – treehouses, zipwires, jungle bridges, boat trips, storytelling…it’s all here along with some special characters, the real-life setting for children’s book ‘A Boggle at BeWILDerwood’. The adventure park recycles 70% of its waste, has planted 14,000 trees and sells locally-sourced food on site. Recommended for children aged 2-12 years and their family/carers. Visit www.bewilderwood.co.uk for more details.

Cycling in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire Take the Family Cycle Trail through the Forest of Dean for fresh air, exercise and wonderful scenery. This 11-mile circular route mainly follows an old railway line with connecting routes to villages and picnic sites. It has been especially surfaced making it suitable for all ages and abilities. Start at the Cannop Cycle Centre – bikes can be hired from Pedalabikeaway. Visit www.forestry.gov.uk for more details.

That’s just a few to get you started! There are hundreds (if not thousands) of fantastic eco-friendly days-out for all the family across the UK. If you have a good recommendation, or review of one we’ve mentioned, let us know…

Villaggi La Francesca – an Italian eco stay

La Francesca is situated in the La Spezia area of Italy and is the natural doorway to the Cinque Terre National Park. Perched on the Ligurian Eastern Rivervia in Italy, near Bonassola and Levanto, the owners of this 50-year old resort are making the most of the beautiful natural surroundings. Visitors are lured with the promise of wild, rugged coastlines, beaches, woodland, medieval villages, olive groves, farms and an abundance of flowers in the Spring/Summer months. The resort clings to the steep coastline and leads down to a bay – the surrounding marine area is protected (whales and dolphins often pass by).

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Accommodation: La Francesca consists of 55 villas and apartments – which all face the sea – dotted around 15 hectares of protected area rich in pine trees and Mediterranean plants. Choose from one bedroom apartments or family cottages – all have bedrooms, living areas and basic kitchenettes.

Food: The on-site restaurant offers magnificent sea views from the terrace, plus a menu based on Mediterranean and Ligurian traditions and food and wines from the region. There’s also a bar on site.

Activities: The resort itself has all the usual sports facilities (swimming pool, tennis courts, bowling, table tennis etc) but surely most enjoyment comes from exploring the surrounding area with a number of treks (easy and slightly harder) available straight from La Francesca. There are plenty of outdoor activites for nature lovers and adventure seekers available through the nearby National Parks including cave and wreck diving; snorkeling; surfing; horse-riding; cycling; hiking; plus tightropes and zipwires at ‘Tree Adventures’ (Parco Avventura Val di Vara). As a family-friendly resort, a 10,000 sqm play area is a dream for children. There is also a small mini-market on site.

The National Parks: Alongside Cinque Terre you will also find –

  • Regional Natural Park of Portovenere, which besides Portus Veneris, the ancient port of Roman triremes, includes the islands of Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto. The park still keeps traces of the prehistoric people who inhabited the Grotta dei Colombi.
  • Regional Natural Park of Montemarcello-Magra, an area of 4,320 hectares. Not only a set of wonderful landscapes, but also home to organisations such as the Centro Regionale Fauna Minore and the Orto Botanico of Montemarcello.
  • Regional Natural Park of Portofino, situated on Portofino headland, 1,800 hectares and 13 kms of coasts. The headland summit is accessibile only through the paths network.

Recommended for… Those who love nature and outdoor activities. Also very family-friendly.

Be aware that… This is not a self-catering holiday to escape from it all: the basic kitchen facilities mean you will have to eat in the (albeit lovely) resort restaurant or drive further afield.

‘Good’ credentials:

  • La Francesca has installed solar panels and uses solar-generated power whenver possible
  • Management of the site is respectful of the natural surroundings and encourages guests to consume less power
  • Situated in an area of outstanding natural beauty, and next to several protected areas and National Parks
  • The owners promote traditional Ligurian culture, food and history (through cookery courses, wine tasting and more)

 

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