How to Enjoy Alfresco Fun When the Weather’s Rubbish

Well, what a summer it has been so far. We had a heatwave of monster proportions in June, then it started raining… and in much of the UK it has kept on raining more or less ever since. If you’ve been looking forward to a season of alfresco fun but the unusually soggy weather has driven you indoors and your garden’s more like a swamp than a lawn, here’s how to salvage things and get out there anyway, rain be damned!

Get a gazebo to enjoy your outdoor space – Despite the rain!

Your first step is to think about waterproofing your patio or lawn. A gazebo is probably the simplest way to achieve a dry party space without trashing your bank balance. You can buy super-cheap camping gazebos for less than Β£30, made from the same material as a tent and easy to put up. Some are pop-up, with absolutely no effort required, others are solid, permanent wooden structures .

If you go the impermanent route it makes sense to think ahead and put your gazebo up a few days in advance if you have an outdoor event planned, then the ground under the gazebo will stay relatively dry – much better than putting it up on top of an already-swampy lawn.

Permanent pergolas for outdoor party animals

A pergola is a usually a permanent structure, an arched wooden or metal framework. They’re often used to grow beautiful climbing or trailing plants, so you end up with a gorgeous, lush, scented display that you can walk through and sit under. But you can also throw a big canvas or tarpaulin over the structure to create a large watertight space to enjoy yourselves.

Invest in your own marquee for years of outdoor entertainment fun

A marquee is a big investment, but it makes the perfect weatherproof party venue. Because it has a roof and walls it’s very unwise to light your chiminea under a marquee, but you can put your chim just outside the marquee under a special BBQ gazebo and avoid a build-up of carbon monoxide.

Special BBQ gazebos

There’s a nice range in specialist BBQ gazebos available, like this excellent one from Tesco. It’s ideal to place your chiminea underneath and keep the rain off, giving you enough protection as well as plenty of essential airflow.

Beautiful tropical garden beach huts

If you want something really beautiful built for the purpose, how about a tropical garden building, the kind of thing you find on an exotic beach holiday and something truly special for your British garden. These clever people design them for you and will build yours in just a day.

They even create brilliant things like tropical beach hut saunas and commercial tropical garden outside seating area buildings, all with either tiled or thatch roofs. You can buy one with its own ready-made furniture, or they can custom design furniture for you. Their buildings come with professional construction, a 3 year guarantee, and all the materials used are flame-retardant.

Cheap ‘n’ cheerful garden shade sails

Garden shade sails are big business, and they can be as cheap as you like or as expensive as you can afford. They’re simple to fit too, using three or more poles set in the ground – or fitting one or more corners to an outbuilding or house – and offer excellent shelter from the weather, sun or rain. We like the huge range and wide colour choices sold by Primrose. Just make sure the one you buy is actually waterproof.

Screen your space for wind-free fun

A mere roof won’t be much good when it’s windy as well as wet, and the rain is actually horizontal! Luckily you can use bamboo or hazel screening to shelter your entertainment space, a cheap way to provide shelter. You can also plant up long troughs or beds of evergreen stuff like bamboo, which will provide a lovely screen of green to keep the weather at bay all year round.

Staying safe on slippery ground – Get decent decking

You’re dry on top… but your decking is absolutely lethal! It’s important to choose flooring that doesn’t get too slippery. Slate is great but boy, it gets slippy in the rain. While ridged softwood decks are meant to be slip-proof, they don’t always perform well when it’s really wet. The best decking for wet weather fun is hardwood, which compares well to a stone surface price-wise but is warmer underfoot. Balau wood is a good one, being well priced. It quickly turns that lovely silvery colour, too. Pressure treated bamboo is also a winner because it’s just as tough as hardwood as well as the ultimate in sustainable woods.

If you prefer a stone surface try Portuguese limestone, easy to maintain. When it’s ‘leathered’, ie, textured, it’s safe to walk on in the wet, not slippery.

Weatherproof outdoor furniture

We don’t all have the space to stash wooden outdoor furniture in the dry through the winter. A good bet is low maintenance, low cost plastic rattan, which lasts and lasts through rain, wind, sleet and snow. If you have the money, responsibly sourced teak is expensive and lasts a lifetime when properly maintained.

Have you already waterproofed your outdoor space so you can enjoy eating and entertaining outside even when it’s peeing down? If so we’d love to see what you’ve done – please send pics!