The bees are buzzing, the buds are blooming, and the big wheel is up; it can only mean one thing: picnic season has arrived in Stratford-upon-Avon!
Apart from a few determined all-year-round picnickers, springtime is when the tartan blankets begin to unfurl on lovely grassy patches and baskets open to reveal all kinds of tasty goodies. I don’t know about you, but alongside my fizz and cheese (picnic staples for me), I like a bit of peace, maybe a little birdsong, perhaps the gentle hum of people nearby having fun… but not too nearby!
It can be hard to find quiet picnic spots in Stratford-upon-Avon when the sun shines. The Recreation Ground and Bancroft Gardens are swarming with picnickers come lunchtime, while others play games, whizz by on bikes, or walk past with dogs who can sniff out a sausage roll from a mile away.
But, in my quest to find the perfect, peaceful picnic place, I have uncovered a few spots you might not have considered. Just don’t all go there at once! And please, no open fires and take any rubbish away with you. Respect the Countryside Code.
Top 5 quiet picnic spots in Stratford-upon-Avon
Getting away from the lunchtime hubbub is easy. Here are my top 5 quiet picnic spots in Stratford-upon-Avon:
With close to 150 acres of woodland, hills and meadows, Welcombe Hills and Clopton Nature Reserve, on the edge of Stratford-upon-Avon, is a natural delight. There are no facilities here, so an all-day picnic is off the cards, but for a few blissful hours you can pick at your picnic with fine panoramic views of Stratford-upon-Avon and beyond.
It is a popular destination for local dog walkers and families, plus roaming cattle from April to October, but with so much acreage you can easily find a quiet picnic spot on the grass. The site is managed by Warwickshire Wildlife Trust.
The hills are home to the striking obelisk, which can be seen for miles around. It has stood since 1876. There are a few picnic benches near the obelisk, plus bench seating dotted around, but we always pack a picnic blanket.
There’s a very small car park off Clopton Road but most visitors arriving by car park in Maidenhead Road, which has a two-hour limit. If you’ve arrived on foot and fancy a hike, numerous trails cross the reserve, while public footpaths can also lead you further afield. You could even work up an appetite by walking to The Farm Stratford, a couple of miles away across pretty farmland and the golf course; buy a few goodies at The Farm and either have your picnic on the lawn there or return to the hills.
Avonbank Gardens/The Dell
Located between Holy Trinity Church and the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Swan Theatre are the secluded, shady and quiet Avonbank Gardens. Even when The Rec, over the river, is buzzing with laidback lunch-munchers, Avonbank Gardens are usually tranquil. The Dell is the swathe of grass, trees and flowers closest to the church, and is my go-to picnic spot if I’m in town and want a bit of peace.
The RSC is staging shows in a newly-built outdoor theatre this summer, so time will tell if these gardens remain a peaceful picnic place.
There’s plenty of on-road parking near the gardens. If you’re on The Rec, you can even catch the chain ferry, once it’s back up and running post-COVID. There are public toilets available in The Dell.
Near Stratford Racecourse
There are loads of reasons why The Recreation Ground in Stratford-upon-Avon is a popular and busy spot for picnics: it’s packed with facilities, including car parking (Swans Nest Lane), playgrounds, mini golf and toilets, it boasts gorgeous views across the River Avon to the RST and Holy Trinity Church, and it has lots of space. But it does get busy on a warm summer day when the sun shines.
For respite from The Rec, follow the River Avon heading away from the town centre, past Lucy’s Mill Weir, and keep to the riverside paths (not suitable for wheelchairs or pushchairs). Follow the path under the Greenway and you’ll emerge into the fields adjacent to Stratford Racecourse. It’s around two miles/a 30-minute walk from The Rec to this quiet riverside area, where you can picnic in peace. There are no facilities here.
Near The Old Bathing Place/Fisherman’s Car Park/Lido
A free car park, a gorgeous riverside setting, launching for paddle boards, canoes and kayaks: it’s no surprise that it gets packed here on a sunny summer day in Stratford-upon-Avon. People set up gazebos and music systems, and it’s a really buzzing, fun place to be. For a more serene setting, however, walk to the river, turn left, and keep going until you find a pleasant place to stop and snack.
Parking is free at this car park, located off Warwick Road, and it fills quickly at weekends when the sun shines, so arrive early to avoid disappointment.
A local park
The biggest and best park in Stratford-upon-Avon is undoubtedly The Rec, which is why it’s extremely busy on sunny Saturdays and Sundays in summer. I’ll avoid it on these peak days, preferring to visit midweek or in spring and autumn.
Instead, consider unpacking your picnic on the grass at a local community park, which don’t draw the crowds like The Rec. As a family, we like Shottery Fields, Cottage Lane playground and playing field, and Hodgson Road playground and playing field, all of which feature free but limited on-street parking.
Many local villages also feature excellent playgrounds, including Willow Wood Play Area in Wilmcote.