5 ideas for a Dorset picnic

Enjoy a traditional picnic on the beach at Studland before having an adventure © National Trust Imag

Enjoy a traditional picnic on the beach at Studland before having an adventure © National Trust Images/David Levenson - Credit: ©NTPL/David Levenson

Sue Quinn has some jolly good al fresco dining ideas, so forget soggy sandwiches: these are picnics worthy of the fabulous Famous Five

1. Lashing of Ginger Beer

Experts say the well-worn phrase “lashings of ginger beer” never actually appears in any Famous Five book, but the children certainly enjoy splendid victuals. In the first book, Five On a Treasure Island, a basic spread of ham, salad, bacon and eggs, plums and a ginger cake fuels their exploits on Kirrin Island, thought to be based on Brownsea Island (which was also the inspiration for Whispering Island), which Blyton could apparently spy while playing golf near Poole back in the day.

Why not follow their lead? Make for gloriously unspoiled Brownsea with a rucksack full of Blyton-esque fare: hard boiled eggs, ham, crusty bread rolls, salad and – naturally – ginger beer. For provisions, try Deli On The Quay in Poole (01202 660022) for cold cuts, salads, drinks and gorgeous cakes. Or if you’re driving to catch the ferry at Poole Quay or Sandbanks pop into Patisserie Mark Bennett for world-class loaves of bread, gourmet sandwiches, cakes and buns (artisanmark.com). Keep your eyes peeled for Palmers Ginger Beer, made to a traditional recipe in Dorset: it’s available online and from Palmers Wine Store in Bridport (palmerswinestore.com) as well as selected delis and farm shops.

2. Supper on the Beach

Al fresco dining on the beach can be idyllic – but why not opt for something on the wild side? Dan and Jade from Fore/Adventure (foreadventure.co.uk) offer foraging and wild food experiences from their base in Studland Bay; you might harvest sea vegetables, seaweed, crabs, cockles or fish for lunch. Alternatively ‘cure’ fillets of spanking fresh mackerel in seawater using their no-cook recipe.

If you don’t fancy catching and curing your own fish, these waterside establishments sell a variety of cooked seafood ideal for a picnic spread including whole cooked lobsters and crabs from Lyme Bay, and if you’re lucky, Dorset grown oysters. Try Cove Fish at Lulworth Cove (01929 400 807); Lyme Regis’ Wet Fish Shop (01297 444205); or Mudeford Quay’s Fish Stall (01425 275389). Ring ahead for opening times and details of what’s available.

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3. The Art of Al Fresco Dining

Salad is essential – the trick is to part-assemble before you set out. My ‘Not-So- Classic Greek Salad’ – ticks that box: just prepare as instructed but carry the feta and dressing in separate containers and add them in-situ. Bring along some lovely bread and add sliced charcuterie for carnivores (dorsetcharcuterie.co.uk or capreolusfinefoods.co.uk). Alternatively, go all out and roast chicken pieces the night before. My ‘Sticky Chicken’ recipe is perfect picnic fodder.

4. A Posh Picnic

Sometimes a properly provisioned picnic feast is in order, and various Dorset hamper companies will obligingly help you picnic like royalty. Red Cherry Catering in Christchurch will prepare you a divine locally sourced hamper, which might include Coronation chicken, ploughman’s lunch with Dorset cheeses, fruit scones and cake (also veggie, vegan and gluten-free options) and will deliver redcherrycatering.com. The Olive Tree Cookery School on the Isle of Purbeck also does fabulous picnic hampers. I love the sound of the luxury picnic menu featuring dressed Dorset lobster. You can collect the hamper or have it delivered for a modest extra charge if you’re picnicking in Purbeck or Sandbanks olivetreecookeryschool.co.uk. Also worth checking out for top notch locally sourced victuals - The Salt Pig in Wareham (thesaltpig.co.uk) and Turnbulls deli in Shaftesbury (turnbullsdeli.com).

5. Brunch at a Beach Hut

All hail the beach huts that dot the Dorset coastline like a multi-coloured string of beads. This is not strictly picnic territory I hear you cry, but I think the Famous Five would approve. In most parts of Dorset, at least some beach huts are available to rent by the day – and outside high summer they’re easier to come by. Most contain a gas camping stove, so you can even cook delicious food if the weather isn’t quite as glorious as you hoped. For brunch bacon butties are the business: a frying pan on which to crisp the rashers to perfection is all you need, plus floury white baps and some good tomato ketchup. A mug of hot tea or chocolate and you’re ready for your next thrilling adventure.