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‘Walking across sand and pebbles with a stable gait is in itself a challenge…’

Five essential beach picnic items that should not be forgotten

  1. Sun cream: especially handy if you’re out on a beach all day under the survivalist’s beach shelter. You will forget it. Don’t.
  2. Wet wipes: one of those items that you only think of after you need it. Useful for wiping sand, foodstuffs and seagull guano from hands.
  3. Bottle opener: always left in the drawer at home, remembered when you’re clutching that thirst quenching beer bottle in the blistering heat and wondering if you can open it with your teeth.
  4. Plates: seems obvious, too obvious, so no one thinks to pack them, assuming someone else will.
  5. Bin bag: you’ve got everything on the check list, and you gradually become surrounded by crisp packets, apple cores, tissues… collecting sand flies and attracting the gulls. Bag it up.

Ah, we all know it well – the sun breaks out for the briefest of moments, and some deluded fool suggests a beach picnic. Full of optimism and misplaced culinary enthusiasm, inland city dwellers head purposefully for the coast. Beach dining seems like a great idea but it is a tricky one to pull off with panache – just walking across sand and pebbles with a stable gait is in itself a challenge, throw into the mix picnicking paraphernalia and your humiliation will be immortalised on YouTube before you can say ‘Jennifer Lawrence’ and ‘red carpet’.

What do I need to pack?

Well, food is a good starting point – preferably things that can be brushed off easily such as crackers and crisps; nothing too absorbent or moist or easily spilt.

Next up – a blanket or rug. The key here is to go for a waterproofed base, but whatever you do don’t bring your granny’s mattress protector. And don’t think you can sling a towel down and get away with it. If there’s even the slightest hint of dampness in the sand it will be absorbed immediately and you will be left uncomfortably buttock-chafed.

You will also want some kind of shade – there is generally limited coverage on a beach so you will need to bring your own. Go for simplicity, i.e., a parasol; don’t let some wannabe survivalist attempt to rig up a rudimentary beach canopy with driftwood and seaweed – the picnic will be eaten before it is finished.

Location, location, location?

Choose your picnic location wisely. No one wants to be that family that has to be rescued by the RNLI as the tide comes in and cuts off the route back to safety. Rest assured that local news will be covering the whole event in a ‘who would be this stupid?’ kind of way’. Find somewhere flat and preferably not next to the seagull-feeding family who only communicate with each other by shouting and swearing.

What about entertainment?

If you are picnicking with children then this is pretty essential. Nothing elaborate or fancy is required, and forget anything electronic or battery-operated. Sand has a habit of getting everywhere. Children actually enjoy digging and most will be entertained for hours with a bucket and spade. With luck they’ll be so busy burying each other that they’ll forget to annoy you.

Is that all?

Pretty much. Beach picnics are best done simply and without too much fuss – no Michelin-style amuse-bouches, just crack open the Scotch eggs and cocktail sausages.

Do say ‘Oh, this is just something simple I threw together with leftovers.’

Don’t say ‘Let’s play dive-bombing with the seagulls!’


Happy Bluffing!

Jo Middleton