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On a sunny summer day there’s nothing nicer than enjoying a picnic with family and friends.

A picnic can also help us to connect with nature, and there’s a wealth of wildlife to look out for in the Peak District – from butterflies and birds to hares and deer.

Spending time outdoors also offers an opportunity to enjoy the National Park’s stunning landscapes and fascinating heritage.

A picnic can be so much more than a sandwich and a packet of crisps – and packing a hamper with fancy food doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming.

There are many locally sourced products to choose from, such as one of the Peak District’s wonderful cheeses.

Stilton, for example, is a cheese that’s been granted Protected Designation of Origin status – this means it can only be made in Leicestershire, Derbyshire or Nottinghamshire.

Hartington is one place that stilton is made. Cheese-making has been an important cottage industry in the village and surrounding area for hundreds of years. You can find local cheeses – along with locally produced ham, pies and other delicious picnic fare – at farm shops, delicatessens and markets across the region.

Add some crusty bread and a couple of salads (see recipes below) and your picnic is ready – then it’s just a question of choosing a place to eat your meal al fresco.

With river valleys, dramatic edges, shady woodland and flower-filled meadows, we’re spoilt for choice in the Peak District when it comes to finding a fabulous spot for a picnic. Here are three suggestions.

Bradford Dale

Bradford Dale is easily accessible from the picturesque village of Youlgreave – walk down the hill past the church, and turn right to get to the River Bradford. There’s a gently sloping, grassy bank not far along the footpath – a great place to spread a picnic blanket.

After eating, there’s a lovely riverside path to follow. It starts by crossing over a clapper bridge – these ancient stone footbridges, consisting of piles of stones sunk into the riverbed and topped with large stone slabs, can be found all over the Peak District.

There’s plenty of wildlife to look out for too – moorhens, dippers, swans and herons can all be seen along the river. If you’re lucky, you might spot a kingfisher.

This path forms part of the Limestone Way – a long-distance walking route across the length of the Peak District and beyond, stretching 46 miles from Castleton in the north to Rocester in the south. As you head further north along the path, look out for an arrangement of stone books in the wall. The words on the spines form a poem, describing how farmers used the nearby pools and gathering pens when cleaning their sheep before selling them at market.

Stanton Moor

There’s lots to explore on Stanton Moor: an ancient stone circle, Bronze Age barrows, mysterious rock formations and a historic tower.

In fact, the whole moor is a Scheduled Monument – making it amongst the most important historic and archaeological sites in the country.

The area directly around the Nine Ladies Stone Circle is flat and grassy – ideal for spreading out a picnic blanket. Legend has it that the stones that form this Bronze Age stone circle were nine ladies who were turned to stone as a punishment for dancing on the Sabbath. A tenth stone – the King Stone – represents the fiddler who provided the music.

Or head to the flat, rocky outcrops on Stanton Moor Edge, which offer good locations for a picnic. With sweeping views across the Derwent Valley, it’s especially beautiful here at sunset.

Curbar Edge

For more wonderful views, visit one of the National Park’s gritstone edges. There are plenty of places to lay out a picnic spread on Froggatt, Curbar, Baslow or Birchen Edges – and, with smooth, flat, rocks to perch on, you don’t have to worry about sitting on wet grass.

Of all the edges, Curbar is one of the easiest to access – it’s just a short walk from the car park to the edge, with some scenic picnic benches nearby too.

Curbar Edge is part of the Eastern Moors ( – an area rich in wildlife and history, that’s protected by the National Trust and RSPB. There’s a large resident herd of red deer here – in the autumn, the Eastern Moors is one of the best places in the UK to experience the red deer rut, when the bellows of competing stags can be heard across the moor.

There’s also an abundance of bird species in this area – look out for skylarks, short-eared owls, curlews and the rare ring ouzel.

Look after the Peak

If heading out for a picnic this summer, it’s important to help look after the beautiful landscapes of the Peak District.

Take litter home with you – and to protect ground-nesting birds, stick to public footpaths and keep dogs on a short lead. Sparks from barbeques can cause wildfires that could devastate wildlife and habitats – so don’t use disposable barbeques, unless in a designated area where signs say it’s allowed.

Two simple salad recipes

Sun-dried tomato and black olive couscous

150g couscous

1 vegetable stock cube

350ml boiling water

75g sun-dried tomatoes, chopped into small pieces

50g pitted black olives, sliced

40g sultanas

Small bunch of fresh chives, finely chopped

Put the couscous in a heatproof bowl and add the boiling water. Crumble the stock cube into the couscous and stir. Cover with a plate and leave for five minutes until the water has been absorbed. Stir in the sun-dried tomatoes, olives, sultanas and chives.

Red cabbage, carrot and soya bean salad with a sesame soy dressing

½ small red cabbage, finely shredded

1 medium carrot, grated

140g frozen soya beans

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon clear honey

1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

Cook the soya beans as per the packet instructions. Drain and leave to cool.

Combine the beans, cabbage and carrot in a large bowl. Whisk together the sesame oil, soy sauce and honey, then add to the vegetables, mixing well. Stir in half the toasted sesame seeds. Transfer into a serving dish and sprinkle with the remaining sesame seeds.

Penny Bunting

Twitter @LGSpace


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