Spring is one of my favourite times of the year for lots of reasons but I always look forward to finding wild garlic springing up from the ground on my walks at this time of year. It’s a really versatile plant with lots of uses and a very unique flavour, so I encourage you all to keep your eyes peeled when out on your walks this Spring.

Where to find wild garlic

If you’re new to foraging, wild garlic is a great place to start as the strong smelling plant can easily be sniffed out and identified.  Wild garlic likes to grow in woodlands or forest, in shady, damp spots.  It’s a perennial plant (comes back year after year) which begins to grow in February/March time until around June/July.

You will recognise this edible plant by its long, smooth leave which end in a point, when it’s flowering, you’ll see small white star-shaped heads.  Wild garlic leaves and flowers are edible, both raw or cooked.  It has a milder flavour than bulb-garlic and has lots of culinary, disinfectant and medicinal uses.

How to forage wild garlic responsibly

Usually wild garlic grows in abundance so it’s perfectly fine to take a handful home with you but there are some things you might want to consider:

  • If the land is privately owned always ask permission before foraging anything.
  • Make sure to pick a small amount, proportional with how large the patch is.  You will want to leave enough for others, and also make sure you do not prevent the plants from thriving and coming back next year.
  • Consider wildlife and other plants in the surrounding area.  If the plant you’re foraging is their food source you must make sure to leave enough that the eco-system can remain unaffected.
  • Pick leaves which grow slightly back from the path. This is more for your own good in case the area is also visited by dog walkers!

How to use wild garlic

You can use leaves and flowers raw in salads or sandwiches to add decoration and a punchy garlic flavour. You can also add it to butter or (dried) to salt as a means of flavouring.  It makes a great pizza topping, or added into risottos, soups and onion bhajis.  Some of my favourite recipes are below:

Vegan wild garlic pesto

Potato and wild garlic soup

Wild garlic and goats cheese risotto

It has now been over a year since the last night the pub was open. I remember thinking we were only going to be closed a few weeks at the time – but still wondering how on earth we all would cope.  Yet here we are over a year later with a much deeper understanding of just how resilient we all are.

We are very much looking forward to opening again soon – and having more nights like the 20 March last year. Although we all knew it was going to be the last time we saw each other for a while, the night was far from melancholy!

Since we last opened our doors the whole world has been through such a vast amount of change.

This time last year I was happily able to sell  drinks from the pub door as off-licences were deemed ‘essential’ after pubs were closed on the 20th March, and we entered full lockdown on the 24th.

I was also kept busy with home deliveries – the first time we’d ever offered such a service & now it’s our only way of trading!  I had a brilliant time rummaging through my fancy dress cupboard and coming up with new outfits to wear for my deliveries.  I hope it put a smile on people’s faces to see me cycling around the local area dressed as anything from a whoopee cushion to a pirate!

Our usual open day had to be cancelled but we managed to raise double what we would usually raise for St Elizabeth’s Hospice on our open day. (We’ll be doing this again this year too).

Then in July when other pubs were able to open their outdoor spaces and some indoor spaces if there was room for social distancing and good ventilation (neither of which we have).  We made the difficult decision that if we were going to reopen we HAD to do it in a way that we could guarantee the safety and enjoyment of our staff and customers.  The magic of The Sweffling White Horse has always been that you can come in for a chat with a stranger & enjoy some music or entertainment & we didn’t want to reopen without those things. So we carried on with our off-sales and deliveries and stayed patient.

In October, the tiers were brought in, and pubs could only serve alcohol with a ‘substantial meal’. This was when we started investigating the idea of opening a live music venue – which we managed to pull together in December for two amazing events – before the new year lockdown. The Sweffling Mule in the campsite/garden was long in the planning and short in the opening but such a lovely window of joy in 2020!

Since then, with lockdown no.3, it’s been home deliveries only. Though finally, it feels like we are on the path to normality. With the easing of restrictions soon to be implemented we’re getting closer and closer to welcoming you back to the pub….and we can’t wait!

As much as we can all agree the last year has been the longest 12months in human history; I almost can’t wrap my head around the fact that it’s soon to be March 2021.  There’s still a little part of my brain that’s still stuck in March 2020!

Collectively the last year seems like a very long, lonely stint.  I know there were times we were able to get out and see people in between the lockdowns but viewed backwards it seems like forever since we made meaningful connections with people face to face.

Phone calls, messages and zoom have been a social lifeline to so many of us but one of my favourite ways I’ve noticed people connecting is by sending letters and gifts to their loved ones through the post.  Whether it’s a handmade card, a packet of seeds or a full-blow care package; receiving post these days is an exciting event!

This month we launched a new initiative inspired by the amazing ways you’ve been surprising and treating each other via post.  Our ‘Post a pint to a pal’ service is now available for anyone wanting to surprise a friend local to the Sweffling White Horse. 

How it works:

In line with our regular beer delivery service:

  • Head to the ‘drinks’ tab of our website to see what we have available on the day of your order.  We update this frequently with new draught ales, and sometimes food too.
  • Send an email to swefflingwhitehorse@gmail.com with your order.  Give us your order for drinks, the address you’d like it sent to with any special directions or instructions to help us find it.  Make sure to leave us a phone number in case we have any trouble. We’ll label up your order if it’s as a gift for someone else so make sure you tell us if you have a special message for the recipient!
  • Place orders by 5pm or 11am for Sunday lunch.
  • Pay via this link, or the one on the drinks page of our website.
  • We’ll deliver your order between 6-7pm that same day, or 1-2pm on Sundays. 

I know there are lots of people we’d all like to share a drink with right now. And even though we have some very exciting light at the end of the tunnel on the form of the vaccine & a planned route out of the current lockdown; we still have a little wait until we’re reunited. With this in mind it’s important to keep making the effort to stay in touch, keep checking in on your friends, family & neighbours. Whether you’re posting them pints, picking up the phone or waving at your neighbours, make sure to stay connected to your communities.

This lockdown I’m encouraging everyone to really embrace the idea of hibernating.  I know you’re tired and worried and probably quite frustrated this time around but while we have a duty to our communities to stay at home & keep people safe; we also have a duty to ourselves of self-care.

Whether you’re working from home, home-schooling, furloughed or at leisure, your free time is certain to spent differently to usual and even from the lockdown last spring. This time around the weather is not ideal for long stints outdoors.  My most emphatic piece of advice is that taking your daily exercise should not be skipped (time in nature is vital for wellbeing) BUT once you’re back home really sink into making yourself as cosy as possible.  There really is nothing better.

The Danish word ‘hygge’ really epitomises what I’m talking about.  Hygge is the concept of staying warm, cosy & finding joy in the little things that can improve our environment & how we spend time there.  My point being that if we have to stay at home we can make our living spaces as welcoming and conducive to wellbeing as possible.  By approaching this lockdown with a positive mindset & indulging in some good old-fashioned comforts, it will pass much more enjoyably.

Blankets

Whether you’re reading, watching TV, listening to music or cuddling the cat blankets make all chair-based activities infinitely better.  We always have several to choose from, but every home should have at least one. There’s nothing cosier than cocooning yourself in a fluffy blanket and enjoying the warmth & safety of home.

Warmth

Put on extra jumpers, socks or maybe even gloves if you’re a Raynauds sufferer like me. Light the fire, put on the heating; whatever it takes to make your home an oasis of warmth – you’ll appreciate it so much coming back inside from your daily exercise.

Lighting

Lighting is crucial to making your home feel inviting and cosy.  Instead of using the main ceiling light, why not switch to a few lamps with warm-toned bulbs.  If you’re not doing anything that requires bright light or visual concentration, soft lighting is wonderfully calming. Candles are also a welcome addition to any room, the flickering light can make you feel warmer & scented ones are great for creating a relaxing environment.

Entertainment

More than ever in the last year we’ve been learning that productivity is not the yardstick to measure ourselves against. So I don’t think the focus during these weeks in lockdown should be even remotely on ‘keeping busy’ but more on keeping entertained.  Think of things that bring you joy, make you feel absorbed and plan those things into your day. These activities don’t have to be anything ‘useful,’ in fact I advocate that at least some of them shouldn’t be, just something that makes you smile. Do something crafty, cook something delicious or curl up with a book.  We have a free library outside the pub with books, DVDs & sometimes puzzles for people to stay entertained.  BBC iplayer has some amazing programmes to access, including a shed-load of Attenborough.  We are living in unprecedented times, which we (hopefully) won’t ever see again so use your time for joy, not worrying about how productive you can be.

Food and drink

Punctuate your day with nutritious meals and cups of tea – it’s a great way to get your body into the rhythms of the day and making sure you take good care of yourself.  Make sure to treat yourself with the odd indulgence too: Lots of places are doing amazing menus of takeaway food & we’re offering drinks deliveries to anyone in a 5 miles radius so you can still treat yourself to a draught ale in the evening.

Tribernation

However you choose to spend the next few weeks make sure to stay in touch with friends & family – they’re crucial to boosting our wellbeing & avoiding feelings of loneliness.  I’m hereby coining a new word: ‘tribernation.’  It’s the knowledge that whilst we might be all hunkering down in our separate houses; we are all in this together. We’re staying home for the good of the whole community, and also; we have universal understanding of what life is like for our friends, neighbours, colleagues etc right now. Make sure to check in with people you care about and think of those in your community living alone.  And please please feel free to get in touch with us here if you need anything – we have a collection of helpful people on hand who can bring you some shopping or just phone for a friendly chat.




I can’t wait to host live music again at The Sweffling White Horse. Our music or open mic nights were always the highlights of our calendar and during 2020 I’ve really admired how independent artists and creatives have adapted and found ways to survive in such a challenging climate. After all, isn’t it music, books, art and various forms of creativity that we’ve all turned to to see us through bleak months of lock-down & uncertainty?

Until musicians can go back to live performances here are some ways you can support your favourites:

  • Follow them on social media and like, share save and comment as much as you can – these actions boost the visibility of their page so more people are likely to discover them.
  • Always see if you can purchase physical (CDs, vinyl etc) or digital content directly from the artist. Check which their most beneficial provider is eg they can make decent money from bandcamp but almost nothing on Spotify.
  • If you’re streaming music do everything you can to support them: Saving tracks to your devices, following the artist, pre-saving or listening to tracks on their release date all help to raise the profile of your favourite artists on streaming services. These things give them more chance of being picked up by the algorithms on these sites and having their tracks added to popular playlists which will help get them better known & maybe even earn them a little revenue.
  • Join their mailing list if they have one.
  • Actively seek out and support crowd-funding campaigns. If you’re not financially able to support; why not share them on you social media pages to encourage greater exposure?
  • If the artist has a Patreon account support it at whichever level you can afford. Most artists will offer tiered support, with the lowest being a few pounds a month.
  • Actively seek out new music. Search online or on streaming services, ask your friends for recommendations. There are also loads of apps and websites that will generate a recommended playlist based on your current tastes. There’s a lot of music out there with artists just waiting and hoping to get heard.
  • If you’ve just discovered an artist and they have a back-catalogue of releases; buy it when you can afford to do so. It may have something different/interesting on there. But also, many artists will have boxes of old releases in the lofts & garages so buying their back-catalogue is a great way of putting cash straight into their pocket.
  • When gigs start again PLEASE come out and see them, buy a ticket or put some money in the hat.
  • While gigs are impossible consider hosting a home-concert. Hire an artist to play via zoom (or similar) and raise some money in the process.

This winter is going to be a difficult one for a lot of us. As yet we don’t know how/if pubs will be able to trade – but one thing we know for certain is that it is safer to socialise outdoors  A Japanese study has found that it can be up to 20 times more likely to catch coronavirus indoors than outdoors, and scientists advise that ventilation is key if you are indoors. So this winter we are all going to have to learn a new way of socialising, and we’ve got some top tips and advice on how to stay comfortable as well as safe:

Warm Clothing

Invest in some thermals & make sure you have a nice warm waterproof coat. Tights under trousers is a great way to keep warm, and knitted wrist warmers are surprisingly helpful. Layering up is the best way to stay warm, especially slightly loose layers as they trap a layer of warm air between each garment, keeping you extra toasty!

Go undercover

If you have a frame tent or awning this could be a great, well ventilated space to socialise with friends and family. Make sure it has enough room for your group though – even in well ventilated spaces it is recommended we sit at least 1m away from those not in our household. If it’s safe to do so, you could run a cable and add an electric heater to your outdoor space.

Fire it up

On dry days/evenings, you could use a fire pit to keep warm. If you don’t have a fire pit or BBQ suitable, you could invest in one of these portable ones for less than £20. Here’s a photo of mine from when I visited my mum. We shared a takeaway and spent an evening together outside her house safely.

Pick your moment

Check the weather – cloudy evenings may look a bit daunting but can often be warmer than clear skies. This is especially true once the wind has dropped. At the coldest time of year, it might be better to socialise during the daytime rather than in the evenings.

Bring your own..

To be as safe as possible, take your own eating & drinking vessels to friends’ houses, and avoid touching each others’ items. If, like me, you suffer from bad circulation you could make or buy a cup-cozie like this one. This will make drinks easier & more comfortable to hold – especially if you’re wearing gloves.

Also plastic-backed mats like this one can be a really useful way to stay dry and warm

Santise

Always carry a little pot of hand gel with you. This way you can protect yourself and others if you need to handle each others’ things or if you need to pop indoors to use the loo.

Socialising has been difficult for some months in the wake of social distancing measures and lockdowns. I do think it is going to remain so for the next few months. Spending time with people is a really important way to to boost your own wellbeing & support your friends through difficult times so let’s not let the colder weather put us off!