Recently, two women going for a walk in the UK were told by the police that the hot drinks they brought with them were classed as a picnic (note that going for a picnic is illegal in the current lockdown).

Is this true?

(Was wondering about asking this on Skeptics.SE, but I would like an answer per law, so asking here.)

(For completeness: the fines have been withdrawn and the police apologised but my question still stands.)

  • 3
    Its worth noting that from the legal point of view, what matters for the fines is not whether it was a picnic, but whether it was no longer exercise. Though there has been a lot of confusion over what the removal of the outside recreation exception to the requirement to stay at home is. Jan 12, 2021 at 20:21
  • This matters because if the argument is that it is both exercise and a picnic, that would still be valid under the law as written, because there is no specific exclusion of picnics, just no inclusion of them. Jan 12, 2021 at 20:25
  • 1
    That's right. The word picnic (or anything close to it) does not occur in any of the orders. Jan 16, 2021 at 13:48

1 Answer 1


There is, as far as I can see, no legal definition of picnic in England and Wales.

In the absence of such, the convention applied by the UK courts is to use the normal meaning of the word; usually by reference to the Oxford English Dictionary (which is behind a paywall so I've used its free online version here)...

An occasion when a packed meal is eaten outdoors, especially during an outing to the countryside.

(My emphasis)

  • 1
    Being that this is the law stack exchange, you should be relying on the definition specified in the public health order, or the UK law it includes by reference, or failing that, UK law generally. Jan 12, 2021 at 23:56
  • 1
    @Harper-ReinstateMonica Aside from the specific word used, the picture of the sign at the entrance to the location (near the bottom of the OP's link) makes it quite clear that consuming food and drink is one of the reasons for visiting it. The journey would have been contrary to the order whether or not the couple intended to go for a walk only as far as the "picnic area" provided and consume the drink, or to walk further.
    – alephzero
    Jan 13, 2021 at 2:28
  • 3
    @Harper (Being that) there is no definition specified in any Order, Regulations, Act or in the law generally one can only rely on the convention applied by the UK courts in these circumstances.
    – Rick
    Jan 13, 2021 at 8:55

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.