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Published:  2012-10-12 Views:  462
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Published in:  Cruises
Occasionally in this country we do get unbearably hot days when we feel the need for some shade, even though it may have been months since we last saw the sun. It seems a shame to blot it out as soon as it appears and does its job but if you do not have the luxury of an awning or covered patio then a portable parasol is the ideal solution. My garden, as my readers will already know, is rather on the small side. However, there is still enough room for a small table and chairs and during a recent hot spell I decided the time had come for me to afford this sitting area a little shade and purchase a parasol. I did not know there was so much to learn and to take into consideration about these humble pieces of equipment – here is some of what I discovered.

There are a variety of styles on the market from the simple umbrella type to ones that tilt, those that can be wall mounted and also overhanging garden parasols. Naturally a wall-mounted parasol does not need a base and an overhanging one comes with its own integral base, but any other type of free-standing parasol will need a base to keep it stable when in use. It is advisable to have a garden table with a hole in the centre through which the pole of the parasol can be passed in order to then sit in the base on the ground, out of the way underneath the table.

The base needs to be heavy as you don’t want the parasol to topple over in the gentlest of breezes, let alone a strong wind. Therefore there are a number of weighty solutions for all types of parasols. Cast-iron (or other heavy metal) bases tend to be circular with a central orifice to take the pole, the pole is then held in place with a wing-nut type fastening. Other bases are formed from hollow plastic that can be filled with water or even concrete, however, concrete-filled ones will be much less portable.

Wall mounted parasols and overhanging garden parasols are similar in that they do not have a central pole to support the canopy. As the name suggests the wall-mounted kind has a support attached to a wall with a cantilevered arm from which the canopy is suspended. An overhanging garden parasol is very similar in that it also has a cantilevered arm and suspended canopy but the arm is attached to a support that stands to one side of the parasol. These two types are usually quite large and therefore need a winding mechanism to open and close them; as they are designed to be permanently kept outside they also come with their own protective covers.

Free-standing parasols that require a base to stand in have different opening mechanisms depending on the weight of both the canopy material and the pole and rib construction. The lighter-weight ones are opened by hand in the same way that you would open an umbrella. Heavier ones are opened by a corded winding system that opens the canopy as you wind the handle. Some also tilt from part way up the pole to allow the shade to continue as the sun moves across the sky. However, it has to be said that this can be a disadvantage on a windy day as the wind can catch the tilted canopy and cause it to spin around. Free-standing parasols should generally be taken in and stored when not in use, preferably in their own covers to protect them from dirt and debris.

In the end I opted for a medium-priced plain blue parasol to match the patio set that I got a few months ago. It has a large but lightweight canopy with a winding mechanism to open it. I got a matching base to go with it that has a hole exactly the same diameter as the pole so it is very stable. The base can be water-filled so that I can empty it and store it in the shed over the winter. All I need now is for that sun to put in an appearance.

Sitting under a parasol is just one of the hundreds of http://www.myoutdoorstore.co.uk/compare_days-out.html. Follow the link to discover our vast selection of days out ideas.
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