Let’s face it, we don’t see much sunshine in Britain. With the UK averaging 1,500 hours of annual sunshine against 2,875 for southern Spain, it’s a treat when the British sun actually gets its hat on. So, when the summer is good, you have to make the most of it.
Cultural blogger Paul Hudson agrees. “Summer is meant to be enjoyed. If you don’t enjoy summer while it’s around, then you’re really doing yourself an injustice,” he declares.
Here are our suggestions for making the most of what good weather there is, without spending a whole bunch of cash.
Smell the scent of summer gardens
Gardens are fascinating all year round, but they burst into a special riot of colour during the summer months. By all means tour the grand National Trust properties such as Sissinghurst and Nymans, but for a cheeky peek over the garden wall, try to see some lovingly-tended National Gardens Scheme private gardens. Open for charity only a few days each year, many of them are real gems.
Find a geocache
Do you enjoy getting out into the fresh air and exploring fascinating new environments? If so, geocaching could be your perfect free summer activity. It involves using GPS on your smartphone to find thousands of little boxes of cunningly-hidden ‘treasures’ dotted around the country (no, we are not talking about Pokémon GO). After creating a free geocaching account, choose a geocache and navigate your way to its location. Once you’ve found the box, sign the logbook, put the geocache back exactly where you found it and share your discovery online.
Discover outdoor art
In the summer, up and down the country, free art and sculptures come outside to play. Whether you want to ponder Square Mile installations by the likes of Gavin Turk and Sarah Lucas at Sculpture In the City, have a good laugh on Blackpool’s Comedy Carpet, or walk into an architect-designed summer house at the Serpentine Pavilion, there’s loads of thought-provoking outdoor artworks to appreciate.
August is the time to see the magnificent Perseid meteor shower lighting up the night sky with shooting stars. The Earth passes through the path of Comet Swift-Tuttle, whose debris burns up as it enters our atmosphere, creating meteors. You don’t need special equipment, just a clear, cloudless night in properly dark countryside away from light pollution. Simply lay on the ground (blankets advised) and watch the night sky for streaks of light as the meteors burn. NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke says: “This year, instead of seeing about 80 Perseids per hour, the rate could top 150 and even approach 200 meteors per hour.”
Dine al fresco
For some miraculous reason, food taste so much better when eaten outside. Get away from the stove, and throw a cheap but stylish picnic. It can be as simple as some fresh crusty bread, a couple of cheeses, a pot of olives, a bunch of grapes and a bottle of wine on a string to chill in a stream. Barbecues are always a crowd-pleaser, and they needn’t break the bank. Paul says, “Sure, it may take a while to cook dinner, but beer is best served cold. Barbecues are really just excuses to get together and drink during the day – let’s be honest.”
So as soon as the sun comes out, fire up that barbie.
Get on your bikes
Who wants to be stuck in endless stationary traffic queues as the summer roadworks madness drags on? Pump up those tyres, shake the spiders out of the helmets and get the bikes out. As well as being great aerobic exercise, the whole family can go on a safe cycling adventure using the National Cycle Network – most people live within easy reach of the routes, many of which avoid traffic completely.
It’s great to give something back to the community and is even sweeter if you’re doing it with the sun on your back. If you fancy planting trees, sowing wildflower meadows, clearing overgrown footpaths or rebuilding stiles, see what summer project The Conservation Volunteers are doing near you. And they’ll even throw in a free gym session before you start.
Sleep under canvas
Camping is a cheap weekend away. As it’s summer, you (probably) won’t need thermals, so make your tent a home from home with comfy pillows, luxurious duvets, colourful rugs and lanterns. Even the most reluctant home bird won’t be able to resist a bit of DIY glamping if the night temperature is above 10°C.
We’ll leave the final thought to blogger Paul. “Find some time to enjoy your summer because those memories you create are likely to keep you going for the rest of the year,” he concludes.