Have you noticed how few books on picnics are being published these days? Is this because a quick visit to a supermarket will fill the picnic basket with everything you need for an al fresco meal in minutes? Or is it the British weather? Who wants to eat outside when rain threatens and the grass on which you plan to lay your feast is wet and muddy?

Grub Street Press has compensated for the lack of new books this by reissuing Claudia Roden’s Picnics and Other Outdoor Feasts (£14.99), which was first published in 1981. As it’s a real classic, which covers every season and includes far more than the conventional British picnics that call for cold meats, salads, loads of cakes and lashings of ginger beer, its appearance during this inclement summer is timely. Actually, it’s not just timely but inspirational, as its opening lines remind us of the liberating effects of nature, which Claudia believes sharpens the appetite and heightens the intensity of sensations when eating in the fresh air. Anyone who has taken a picnic to the top of a high hill, munched sandwiches in the middle of a bluebell wood, or tucked into a home-made pie while sitting beside the River Thames , will be inclined to agree. There really is something special about eating outdoors and, as Claudia says, the sense of smell is extraordinarily keen, such that every little perfume from a nearby blossom or resinous bark adds to the flavour of the most banal sandwich filling.

Unfortunately, the weather this summer has done nothing to encourage us to set a picnic underneath the apple tree to test this statement. But perhaps where the weather has failed, Claudia’s book will succeed, given that it embraces all manner of picnics, including those eaten in adverse weather conditions when hot soup rather than cucumber sandwiches is called for. As one of my friends remarked when we were forced to set up a picnic in a damp shelter one particularly rainy day, at least the flies keep away when it rains.

During Victorian times, picnics were great social events with enough food to feed the biblical five thousand packed carefully in heavy willow baskets, transported by carriage and unpacked by the servants. Today’s picnic may not be so grand, but can be just as enjoyable, thanks in part to the easy-to-carry hampers, with built-in cooler sections, that are gaining popularity. They enable walkers to set up a picnic in the very heart of the countryside and are so well designed that keeping hot food hot and cold food cold is easy. As maintaining food at the correct temperature is one of the most important factors to be taken into consideration when planning a picnic, these backpacks are a godsend. No one wants to tuck into warm sandwiches, except the bacteria that thrive in such conditions. Food flasks can add an extra dimension to a picnic, too, especially on a cold day, as they will keep casseroles and spicy dishes hot for hours. Sitting in the open air with a dish of hot chicken curry can prove quite a magical experience, particularly in the winter when there’s snow on the ground. I once picnicked on a joint of roast beef packed in my backpack while still warm, along with a fresh loaf of crusty bread, an assortment of pickles and a sharp carving knife. We unpacked the picnic on reaching the top of a hill that had been a haunt of the Gloucestershire poet Ivor Gurney. Despite the chilly wind which rattled round the top of that hill, sitting there 1,000 ft above sea level munching on freshly-cut beef sandwiches while looking out across the Severn Valley and reciting some of his poems was magical — certainly something I will never forget.

Claudia takes this idea further by discussing picnics suitable for Glyndebourne and shooting lunches on the moors. She includes exotic picnic dishes from all over the world that can be eaten anywhere and in any weathers.

Fortunately there are loads of glorious picnic spots in Oxfordshire which are well worth visiting. Those I’ve visited with pleasure over the years include Shotover Park, Christ Church Meadow, Port Meadow, Watlington Hill, Cutteslowe Park, Harcourt Arboretum, the University Parks, Witney Lake and Country Park and various picturesque spots along the Thames Path.