We know summer is the season our gardens really come into their own, but with the right lighting, heating and party prep, there’s no reason why we can’t continue to make the most of our outdoor spaces well into autumn too. Bonfire Night is the perfect excuse, and what better way to start the long cold nights of November than in the glow of an open fire, sparkler and toffee apple in hand?
Whether you’ve enough space to build your own bonfire, the budget to make things go with a bang by creating your own fireworks extravaganza, or you have a great view of the local display from your back garden, celebrating the 5th November at home is a superb way to make the most of your outdoor space in autumn.
Taking centre stage on any 5th November is the bonfire. Not only is it traditional (burning a Guy is optional) but it creates all the heat and light your guests will need outside, as well as a focal point for the entire evening. People will automatically gather around it, they’ll chat and sit and watch the flames dance and the sparks fly. Magical.
There are a few things to remember – build your fire at least 6ft away from trees, bushes and overhanging branches, and away from furniture, fencing and buildings. Remember the wind can carry flames and sparks much further. Don’t forget to allow space for your guests too, there’s no point having a bonfire in your back garden if you can’t get outside to enjoy the warmth.
When you’ve chosen your space, clear the area of dried leaves etc. to prevent the fire from spreading. Then build a 3m – 4m circle using large stones or bricks, which will surround your bonfire.
Use what dry garden waste you can find – it’s a great way of getting your outside space cleared for the winter. Start with tinder (twigs, dried leaves, bark, newspaper, etc) at the bottom. It’s easy to light and start the fire but burns out quickly. Then lay the kindling (larger sticks and pieces of bark) across the tinder in a cross square. Kindling burns easily when it comes into contact with lit tinder but is hard to light on its own. Then, finally lay the Fuel (logs) in a cross square on top of the kindling. If you haven’t been chopping down trees in your garden, then you can buy fire logs to add to your bonfire.
Alternatively, if you’re unsure about building a bonfire in your garden, the space is too small or you don’t want to spend time building one, invest in a firepit. They’re smaller, self contained and won’t do as much damage to your lawn.
Wildlife tip: To ensure as few wild animals as possible venture in to explore your bonfire before it’s lit, build it on the day. It’s a great way to get the kids involved and a great excuse to get your party started early!
Sparklers are a must-have for any age. Bonfire Night is never really complete without them and they’re so much fun to ‘draw’ in the air with. Just remember the rules: wear gloves and hold them at arm’s length, then, when they fizzle out, drop them into a bucket of water.
If you’ve the room in your garden for a fireworks display, then go for it! Always follow the instructions on the packaging and make sure your guests stay well back at all times. Keep fireworks stored in a box and only light one at a time with a taper at arm’s length.
Building your bonfire on the day means you can get the kids involved in the build mid-afternoon and keep everyone fuelled for the occasion with a delicious homemade pumpkin soup – see the recipe in our Halloween blog here. Serve in big mugs, and for dipping, cut a crunchy baguette into long diagonal slices, top with grated cheese and a sprinkling of chilli flakes, then toast to make large croutons, perfect for outside eating.
Traditional bonfire night fayre – toffee apples and toasted marshmallows – always goes down a treat, as do baked-on-the-bonfire jacket potatoes – delish. But what about keeping everyone fed and watered while you wait for your jackets to cook?
A bonfire night barbeque is the solution. Cook up tasty hot dogs topped with mustard and crunchy onions, or classic cheese burgers in soft brioche buns, plus tonnes of veggie kebabs coated in a delicious honey and mustard glaze (use metal skewers to prevent them from burning!). Whatever your summer barbeque favourite is, there’s no reason not to have it on 5th November too.
Mulled wine is the perfect tipple for outdoor events in the colder months. Cook it and serve it up inside, and watch how the sights, sounds and savoury smells from the barbeque and bonfire lure your guests back outside again! For non-drinkers, a luxurious hot chocolate topped with mini marshmallows is the perfect warming indulgence on a cold autumn evening.
Let there be light and lots of it at your Guy Fawkes garden party! Festoon and fairy lights are the order of the evening hanging from branches (away from the bonfire and barbeque, of course) around fence posts, doorways, pergolas and gazebos. Low energy, high impact lighting will create atmosphere and make your guests feel like there’s nowhere else to be but in your back garden. Dress the table with candles in hurricane jars, and scatter LED tealights around to create a gorgeous centrepiece that people will flock to.
Top tip: have blankets for knees and plenty of cushions to sit on to keep everyone as toasty as possible as they tuck into your tantalising feast! Another way of making your autumn feast feel more luxuriant is to use a versatile indoor/outdoor rug. Made of hardwearing materials like polypropylene and boasting stylish patterns, these rugs can set your dining area off to perfection and protect your lawn as well!
Along with looking out for the wildlife in your garden, there are the pets inside your home that might need a little TLC on Bonfire Night too. Keeping curtains closed to muffle sound and hiding flashes of light is a quick and easy way to help them feel less scared. If you can leave the TV or radio on to distract them with noise, that is also worth trying. Making a doggie den is another way to help your little fluff ball feel more at home. If they already have a bed, add an extra blanket, make sure their favourite soft toy is in there too, and leave a chew toy and a bowl of water to keep them distracted and hydrated if they don’t want to move. If your pet doesn’t have their own bed, create one from a large cardboard box, fill it with cushions and blankets to make them feel all enclosed and safe, and if you can stay with them for hugs, then all the better!
There is lots of further information and safety tips for bonfires, sparklers and fireworks to be found on the London Fire Brigade website.
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