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Sex and rugs and sausage rolls (or why Wales is top of the picnic hot spots).

Byline: By MOLLY WATSON Western Mail

Once picnics in Wales were characterised by rain and soggy sandwiches, but a revolution has the country leading the way in alfresco dining. No longer reserved for miserable family outings, picnics have become the latest must-do activity for those who are rejecting fancy restaurants in favour of enjoying sausage rolls and similar fare in the great outdoors.

The hot start to summer has inevitably fuelled the trend, with supermarkets reporting picnic food has been flying off the shelves. But their growing popularity has also been attributed to an increased interest in outdoor pursuits, as well as enjoying the improved range of deli-type food now available in some of the best scenery in Britain.

Patricia Hodge, who this year launched, a company which organises outdoor activities in South Wales, said she's been amazed by the demand for the company's organic picnic service.

Although the service, which includes having your picnic delivered to your picnic spot, started off as an afterthought, she found it was so popular that she's now receiving orders from all over the country.

She puts much of the demand down to a growing number of people who are bored with heavy-drinking parties, and are looking for healthier activities instead.

She said, 'We had 33 orders for picnics within the first 10 days and I've also been amazed at the number of enquiries we've had from hen parties.

'I think the idea that a good party needs to be very decadent is now changing. People care more about being healthy, they care about what they eat and they want to do something a bit different.'

The service which offers, with organic champagne, camp fires and smoked seafood, reflects the increasing sophistication of picnics, and a return to the lavish style of eating outdoors enjoyed by the Victorians.

S4C chef Dudley Newbery says it's the availability of more interesting and exotic types of food which has led brought about the picnics revival.

He said, 'People are more adventurous now and are prepared to try different types of foods. People used to eat a lot of sandwiches but now that's gone out the window. People will make wraps or salads and fish dishes, the type of picnics that you eat with a fork, and that has made picnics a lot more interesting than they used to be.

'People are now prepared to make more effort with food, and will say 'well, if we're going to have a picnic then we'll have a good one' with nice cheeses and a french stick.

'It's also become more accessible because a lot of this food doesn't have to be prepared, you can buy it already made in the shops and so it's all done for you.'

Last month Country Life magazine voted Barafundle Bay in Pembrokeshire as the best place to picnic in Britain, and it's the chance to eat in such beautiful locations, along with the flexi- bility which picnics offer which Ms Hodge says is the biggest draw.

She said, 'I think the appeal of a picnic is that you can do it on your own terms and go exactly where you want to, and being able to eat outdoors is always exciting. 'Restaurants are lovely but it's more of a night-time experience. If you're a very busy, stressed person then the last thing you want to do is to sit in a big crowded building. It's nicer to sit in a beautiful place like the Gower with the sun going down against a backdrop of the wild ponies and castles, where you get the whole atmosphere.' Jeremy Sissons of Asda in Cardiff Bay said 'All our picnic stuff has been selling out. It's driven by the weather, but every year we see an increase.': Mint, ice and talcum powder for perfect picnics:S4c chef Dudley Newbery's tips for a successful picnic Cool bags and boxes are essential for storing food. The last thing to pack should be the food. Cold food and drinks should remain chilled in the fridge until it is time to pack the cooler. Similarly, hot food should be taken directly from the oven and then wrapped in foil or packed into insulated containers. Never store hot and cold foods together.

Freeze soft drinks the night before, as they will remain ice cold for the following day and will help to keep chilled any food packed with them.

On arriving at your picnic site, put your coolers in the shade with the lids closed and covered with a blanket until it is time to eat. Don't leave coolers in the car because they'll get too warm. Remember bottles of water for rehydration and washing hands Sprigs of fresh mint on your picnic blanket is said to keep bees away while sprinkling talcum powder around your plate will keep ants at bay. Take plastic bags for rubbish. Back home check the temperature of the cool box. If it's above 4[bar]C, or if all the ice has melted, then throw leftovers away.: The best places in Wales to open up a hampera:1. Barafundle, Pembrokeshire Don't take just our word for it - Country Life says this West Wales bay wins easily. 2. Cwmcarn Forest Drive, near Newbridge Lesser known but rapidly becoming popular with families. 3. Brecon Beacons 4. Mawddach Estuary, near Barmouth Tolkienesque beauty, and still very much undiscovered as a tourist honeypot 5. Aberedw Rocks, south of Builth Wells Look south to the Black Mountains, east across the vastness of the common, or west, to where the A470 snaking far below will remind you of the rat race you've escaped.
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jun 19, 2006
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