If you want to make the most of the last warm and sunny days this autumn, then Bracken Jelier can help with this list of the top eight Plymouth picnic spots to give you some inspiration for a great day out with family and friends. Can you think of others? Please head to our social media channels to add more in the comments.
Picnic: an excursion with a meal, a movement of the indoor to the outdoor; an informal event yet with certain expected ingredients; unplanned and with nobody in charge at the head of the table; something for family, friends, lovers.
Kate Winslett once said that ‘the thing that makes me happiest in the whole world is going on the occasional picnic, either with my children or with my partner’.
All these things we recognise as being what a picnic ‘is’ – but ‘picnic’ is a rather odd word; where on earth does it come from? It cannot be confirmed but it possibly comes from the French ‘pique-nique’, to ‘pick at something – a thing of little importance’ (‘pique’ your interests, and ‘nick-nack’ show the possibilities). It was always hyphenated, and appeared in written form in English in 1748.
Farm workers (and before the Industrial Revolution that meant almost everybody of the working class) of course ate in the field as routine, but it was hardly a picnic – but people of the middling and upper classes were beginning to want to enjoy their estates, a lakeside view, a day beside the newly-healthy seaside. To go for a ‘pic-nic’ was becoming a popular thing, and as mobility improved with increasing planned leisure time the picnic really took off.
Traditionally packed in a wicker hamper to keep all the odd items packaged safely together, it is still rather nice to produce the whole affair from something with a vintage feel and lay it out on a red gingham tablecloth – even if you are lacking the vintage car to have strapped it all onto the back of.
Bring some fizz and some company, set out in front of view, take a great big slice of fresh air and fun, add a generous dollop of sunshine – and for goodness’ sake keep it all easy-going and don’t over plan it!
So – where to go around Plymouth?
Plymouth Hoe and foreshore
Britain’s Ocean City boasts world class views of the Sound, the location is a mixture of Edwardian class and Art Deco joy, and it’s easy to find your own quiet spot yet enjoy all the goings-on. Easy parking and access for older picnickers too.
You can argue that it’s technically in Cornwall, but the Mount Edgcumbe estate is a short hop across the river by the wonderful Cremyll Ferry from Stonehouse and offers plenty of classical spots by the water, the lake, the temple or under the trees. Owned by the City, it is a traditional Plymothian playground.
On a hill, looking down over the Tamar toward the Royal William Yard and out into the Sound, below the memorial to Captain Scott – this is a spot unknown to many yet quiet and beautiful. Very handy for the City too!
Plymouth is blessed with many lovely parks and it seems unfair to pick one over another! Central Park has loads of space to play football with the kids, Devonport Park has some lovely touches of Victorian class, Mount Radford has water and ducks to feed, West Hoe has the ‘Gus Honeybun’ train and playgrounds – are there are more!
Drake’s Place and Reservoir
Where? Beside North Hill and the University complex are the old water supply reservoirs on the line of the leat built by Sir Francis Drake. It offers lovely sunny and sheltered urban spots for an impromptu exeat from the office! (and if it rains, there’s a great café!)
Up onto The Moor
Dartmoor borders the northern edge of the city and offers masses of locations to picnic; there are streams and tors, woodlands and open spaces – you can even find the odd beach beside the water. Everyone has a favourite and none are too far away!
Mountbatten and Jennycliff
Standing in Plymouth and looking south toward the sea, what do you see? Well, how about taking the water taxi from the Barbican and going over there to explore? Mountbatten has a hill, a pier, and a grassy open area; there is a rocky beach and some easy strolling while you watch the boats. Parking is easy if you choose to drive around – but somehow the boat adds to the adventure! Check out the history – Lawrence of Arabia was once stationed here! For a longer walk, follow the South West Coast Path up to Jennycliff for more great views.
Saltram and Plymbridge
The wonderful National Trust estate at Saltram has a good selection of walks and open spaces, and is easily accessible by bicycle as well as on foot. You can make a great route on two wheels from here up onto the former railway line into Plymbridge Woods too, or extend back the other way to Sutton Harbour.