I’m putting on my gloves, I’m putting on my mask, I’ll tell you where I’m going If you really have to ask

I’m going shopping, I’m going shopping

Tension in the air, No jet planes in the sky, I’m feeling pretty shifty Don’t look me in the eye

I’m going shopping, I’m going shopping

Stalking the aisles, Making my selection, Keeping my distance In the fruit n veg section

What are you doing? What can’t you see?

You’re not supposed to stand That close to me, So don’t stand so Don’t stand so close to me

Because im shopping, Yes, I’m shopping

Now I’m waddling home Feeling such relief, I’m weighed down like a donkey And i look like a thief

Arriving like a pilgrim, From a distant land, STOP! Nobody touch me Until I’ve washed my hands

Because I’ve been shopping, I’ve been shopping.


Free write: A Fallen Tree

It’s early evening, about 4.30pm. I’m sat on what used to be the body of my favourite tree in the wood. It wasn’t the biggest nor did it have the most boastful of branches, but it was mine. If you looked closely I’m sure you can find the indent of my butt cheeks where I spent so many afternoons sitting. It fell not too long ago.  I can feel the warmth of the sun massaging my face as I bathe in its orange blush. It has its arms spread wide tonight, rays reaching every inch of the field, setting the ground on fire, everything lighting up gold. The sky looks like candyfloss; my stomach growls. The heat fills my heart up and, for the first time in what feels like an extremely long time, I don’t feel so empty. My mind has been racing, racing, racing for such a long time without opportunity for a pit-stop, that it is wonderful to finally feel a sense of peace. The whole feeling has me feeling on a high, like a drug, overwhelmed and intoxicated. As darkness comes I lay my head on the fallen tree. Day and night do a graceful dance until eventually, light seeks sleep and the fire is put out by the moon and he stars. I applaud their grand romance. I close my eyes and smile, the sparking lights shining down on me and my tree.


Community fridges are growing in popularity throughout the nation as a tried and tested way of helping to combat the food waste issue. The average family throws away over £500 of food every year according to WRAP (The Waste and Resources Action Programme) and these fridges aim to make that surplus food accessible to the public for free. Several have been opening through Oxfordshire such as in Abingdon and Bicester and hopefully the trend does not stop.

Wednesday 13th 2019 saw the opening party for the new Community Fridge in Witney. The fridge has been up running, quietly finding its feet in Witney Community Support Service for a few months now and is receiving positive feedback from everyone who uses it. Local businesses and individuals donate food routinely every week and this becomes available for collection by anyone who wants or needs it.


Back at the start of the year, co-ordinator of the project James Baughan started volunteering with the Replenish project to see if this was something that could be brought to Witney. The first step involved finding an actual fridge, which was kindly donated by the Oxford Garden Project. Then he needed somewhere to house the fridge. Witney Community Support Service turned out to have the perfect space as they had a separate alcove in their building from where the project could operate. The Centre was also only a few minutes away from the High Street making it easily reachable to residents. It also had suitable opening times from which people could come by and the manager of the site, Pauline Kearney, was extremely supportive.

A regular influx of food became established through tapping into an organisation called FareShare who had links with several Supermarkets. Soon came the involved of places like Tesco, The Co-Operative, Marks and Spenser’s and individuals could also take in their own goods, so long as it follows the guidelines. Recently one volunteer brought in around 50kg of food that would otherwise be wasted. Some days they say that there are no goods, which is a positive sign as it indicates the minimisation of waste. Acceptable items to donate include unopened things like cheese, fresh fruit and vegetables, bread and pastries, table sauces and fresh Lion-stamped eggs. Unacceptable things include meat or fish, cooked foods from home and alcohol.


A group of about 20 enthusiastic volunteers currently are helping with the new fridge in Witney, each having allocated days to collect the food from large stores and deliver it to The Centre. Here they also are responsible for checking best before dates, weighing out the goods, disposing of anything that is past its best and keeping up the general maintenance of the space. They also run a Facebook page where whats been donated that day are posted and recipes for using up leftovers are encouraged which reinforces that sense of community through people supporting one another and being positive about tackling the issue at heart.

The team are happy with the way things are running now and that the fridge is fulfilling its purpose for community. One resident says she finds the fridge increasingly useful when money becomes tight towards the end of the month and another speaks how it reminds her of the days of food rationing when food was much more valuable and the amount of good available were limited.

The fridge can be found Witney Community Support Service, Moorland Rd, OX28 6LS and is open Mondays to Fridays 9:30am – 3:30pm. Occasionally there are bonus openings during other times and weekends depending on food availability. For more details see their Facebook page.








I arrive to be welcomed by the beautiful smell of coffee being brewed with beans that Miguel, the Italian owner who moved to Witney 12 years ago, sources from Sicily. He is stood behind the counter, singing and making paninis from the display of fresh ingredients and fillings.

“Afternoon Madam, welcome aboard the A380. Take a seat and we’ll be right over!” He says, recognising me as one of his many regular customers. The place is thriving, as per usual, but I manage to find a seat at the back amidst all the hustle and bustle.  I’ve been coming to place with my dad for years now; it’s kind of our thing. He enjoys the coffee and the Mexican tuna panini (which was on the old menu but Miguel will still make it for you.) Along with the beans, many of the ingredients and the delicacies the shop sells are imported from Italy too. The coffee has a mild bitterness to it, but it’s not burnt and served in the right sized cup, unlike the likes of Starbucks and Costa which offer their drinks supersized and served in soup bowls. Bags of these beans, bottles of olive oil and jars of green olives are displayed on the shelves alongside a few local jams and chutneys.

The cakes on display all look so inviting it is difficult to choose which one. They’re baked and delivered 3 times a week by a local resident of Witney and have been for years now. All the fillings are made fresh every day which is why Miguel is always in at 4/5am every morning. Food is made to order and as you bite into it, you can taste the freshness of the ingredients and the love and care that has gone into it, even if it is merely a sandwich.

This is a family run business. Miguel’s wife helps out from time to time, and all of his sons have worked here too at some point. His brother can be seen clearing the tables, always with a huge grin slapped across his face and usually humming some sort of Top 50 song. The workers are all young and are always friends of friends. Miguel assures me that he pays well beyond the minimum wage which is so lovely to hear as I know that many places in the area who employ young staff because they’re cheap. He believes if you treat your staff right, they’ll treat you right and be happy to come to work and give their 110%. For this reason, too, there is little staff turn over and you find yourself really starting to build relationships as you (almost indefinitely) return.


Miguel is whole-heartedly one of the nicest people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting and never have I felt awkward or unwelcomed. On a bad day or when the weather is particularly gloomy, I stop by because I am guaranteed to be cheered up. He has that Italian charm about him that makes you feel as though you’re right at home and if you’re not careful you might find yourself spending hours here chatting about his life in Italy.

If you live in the area and don’t come here already, then you absolutely must and if you’re just visiting then stop by and treat yourself to the perfect brew and slice of coffee and walnut cake!


Fun fact: the owners of this place were once upon on a time the management at my first ever job. I remember Ed (who now is backbone behind Hunter’s) used to slave away making the most delicious looking cakes. I was usually the first member in on a Saturday, bar Ed, and he would often say how he’s been here since 4am baking. I knew he wanted to own his own place one day and I am beyond happy that he finally did. This place is a true gem that serves probably the best slice in town.

Walking in the place is decked out with Christmas ornaments, fairy lights illuminating the seating area on a dark Tuesday afternoon early December. Jingle Bells is playing through the speakers and most of the tables are taken by families who have met after school, all digging into a mug of rich cocoa and soft, sugary goodness. This place is a well-known spot with everyone in Witney and is a regular for many for good reason.

Usually coffee shop cakes have been made a day or even a couple of days before, they might have been transported, frozen and most are defiantly left sitting out to dry and harden by the post-work 4 O’clock catch-up with your girl mates. You’re left feeling disappointed, dissatisfied and quite frankly, frustrated that you just wasted all those calories that cost £3.50. But that’s what makes this place stand out from their competitors.


Every cake that you see on the marvellous display is baked fresh every day making every forkful pure, pillow-y perfection! There are so many cakes to choose from! What do I want? Does coffee and walnut take my fancy? Oh, but look at that chocolate cake! Even the fruit loaf looks – pardon my language – moist! And don’t get me started on the cake of the month. (I’m forever surprised and inspired by Ed’s innovative brain and creativity, it seems as though every new idea he comes up with never fails to be as original and scrumptious as the one before!) After giving the whole ordeal as much thought as I’ve given to this year’s election, I finally settle on Lemon and Poppyseed and a cuppa’ tea. The slices are so big, so my mum and I share one and vow we’ll be back to try the rest.

Everything here from the trinkets that hang on the walls, the crockery used for your drinks and the inspirational (albeit cheesy) quotes hung throughout make this place cosy and inviting. If it didn’t shut in 40 minutes my mum and I could quite easily at and nattered away for hours on end.


If you’re someone who is into your coffee, and I mean INTO your coffee, then this is your spot. At UE you’ll find staff with impeccable knowledge who are extremely passionate about serving you up your own personal perfect cup of coffee. You can tell that each member undergoes an intense amount of training and for them, making coffee is not merely a part time job, but an art and something they have a real interest for. It safe to say that they serve the best oat milk flat white I have ever had. AN: I’ve had a lot! Each cup is beautifully crafted, never too hot as so not to burn the beans or milk and is served alongside a glass of water, cause’ you know #hydratebeforeyoucaffinate.

There are two UE coffee shops in Witney that opened recently however they’ve long been roasting their own beans and supplying to much of Oxfordshire at their roastery on the industrial estate. I live pretty close to here and used to pass by it when I walked my dog. Before any of the coffee shops opened on the High St my dad and I used to pop in mid-walk for a pick me up. This is where I bought my first AeroPress and Chemex and was taught how to use them. The Chemex has since become one of my favourite methods for brewing coffee, providing and clean finish, however I always seem to make it a little too weak, so I still come here occasionally to get my fix.

You can purchase a range of their teas, coffee and coffee brewing equipment too! The place has fantastic wi-fi and the chilled-out vibe makes it perfect for a day’s work if you need to get out the home or office. Their beans have won them many awards and the place is extremely popular with those both locals who pop in on a Saturday and those far and wide who manage their own places and want to buy their beans.

You’ll also find a selection of light brunch options and homemade bakes goods, including vegan and GF options. They have a chocolate cake which is divine; rich, gooey and oh so indulgent without being overly sweet and sickly. My mum and I always split a slice whenever we go and because it’s so darn delicious, we never feel guilty for getting at those final crumbs with our fingers. My friend also raves about their fig and tahini toast and sausage rolls so take her word for it and try them out if you visit.


I often enjoy walking my dog around the local lake on Sunday mornings, especially in the colder months when the leaves are beautiful hues of rust and fiery orange and the air is crisp. Tea has never tasted so good as the first sip when you arrive home. The coffee shed is the perfect pitstop as its location is the park across the road. It’s a very family and dog friendly place, providing people with the perfect winter warmers in Winter and something iced and refreshing for those picnics in Summer. Come visit in the Summer holidays and you’ll be sure to find the place filled with families enjoying ice creams, playing tennis or crazy golf all courtesy of The Coffee shed.


You can go on their website and get yourself a ‘Love the Leys’ card which costs £36 p/year. This will get you a 10% discount at the Coffee Shed and The Butter Cross Kitchen (which I must confess I haven’t visited and was unaware of their existence before coming here despite having lived in Witney for ages!) You’ll also get 10/% of the golf and tennis. If you use it often enough, you’ll be sure to get your money back swiftly. It also holds parties for work dues, kids or if you just fancy getting together with your gal’ pals. You can do thinks like craft work, or decorating cupcakes, pizza parties etc which are great for those younger ones. For those a little bit older, there’s happy hours Wednesday 5-7pm where you can get deals on the Golf and beer.

Fancy a bite to eat? You can get a selection of breakfasts and lunches too, not to mention freshly made pizzas. Nothing will cost you beyond £7.20 and the portions are decent too. All the baked goods are freshly made and come from local bakers in the area. The meat they use comes from Denmans, a nearby butchers and their eggs are from Mayfield. Kids menus and GF menus are also available so fear not.

Vonnie Whalley, the General Manager, is a campaigner for customer care and opposed to what she describes as ‘blank-faced baristing’ that you tend to find at a lot of places. Saffron is one of the teams hard working members and who I often am greeted by when I swing by on my Sunday stroll. She is always working hard, kind and accommodating providing not only me with a drink but my panting dog too; he gets a biscuit as well though, must be something in the eyes. It might me mid-Winter, but he’s getting old and is easily tired now a days.


Today I have ordered the hot chocolate, rich and creamy. Too often the ratios of milk: chocolate powder is unbalanced, and you’re left having spent £3.00 on a mug of Chocolate flavoured Nesquik, which is more sugar than anything else, or a clumpy mess where there was too much powder for the milk to marry with. Not here. I wouldn’t be surprised if this glorious thing had come directly from Santa’s Grotto. It reminds me of cosy Sunday afternoons watching Elf and wishing my parents would let me eat fruit loops, putting up the Christmas tree while Michael Bublé rings throughout the house and arguing with mum over how to decorate it.


I don’t really know how I managed to find this place, as it’s based in Brize Norton and that is rarely ever somewhere I venture. I think a friend posted something about their opening a few months ago and it somehow slipped onto my Facebook Newsfeed – I’m forever glad it did! I stopped by one day just to look and,  to say that the place the Bumble Bee café was buzzing would be an understatement!

Apparently, the inspiration behind this charming café came from Bev Campion’s love for healthy and wholesome home-cooked food and passion for extending that to those around her, both loved ones and strangers alike. Her father-in-law enjoys beekeeping, which was the reason behind the name; HOW ADORABLE! These things are reflected in the visions and mood boards that are plastered on the café’s wall. The hard work that went behind into establishing this are all on here too and posted on their website for everyone to see how they came to be the Bumble Bee.

They host parties and meetups as well as providing the community with quality cake, coffee and freshly prepared grub. The heart and soul can be tasted in the spongy goodness and hearty soups. The community, I’m told, have responded well to the new place and are excited to be living in Carterton now, what with its cool new bars (see my previous post) and heart-warming coffee shops like this. Honest people providing honest service and honest product – a nice change. Their selection of light breakfasts and lunches include meat sources from Bampton, just a mere town over. They have a fantastic selection of veggie, vegan and GF options with reduced menus for Kids and specials that change daily. Some healthy and hearty plateful will cost you no-more than a fiver so perfect for my student self.

It’s tipping it down outside and I’m cold to the core, so I order the Soup of the Day to warm my cockles and comfort the soul, and that it does! All the staff are friendly here and will happily have a conversation with you as if you’re a regular who comes on the daily, even though this is my first time being here and they’re all strangers to me! I can’t wait to bring my mum on route to our regular Aldi shopping dates. Perhaps my Dad too, and my Grandma and oh the neighbour’s kids! Just about everyone I think actually…


Goodnight star


I’m sorry I have not named you yet,

nor will i ever meet you soon.

I hope you forget about me,

the way i forgot about you


I’m sorry I left you to burn,

so endlessly in the dark.

With no body to orbit your light,

with no love to fuel your heart.


See my moon as your brother,

although he may seem bigger and stronger,

see your light from the night’s eyes,

then you can feel larger and brighter.


You may never know these words,

as your life passed before I began breathing.

But i still want you to know,

I forever cherish your being.


Goodnight star,

I’m sorry im learning to forget who you are.


I love my little town, especially at Christmas time. The council are always far too eager to turn the lights on as soon as December 1st rolls around, pubs knock out their Special Christmas Day lunches at the end of August, the smell of roasts and freshly made mulled wine fills the streets which makes them the perfect pitstop on a day spent shopping. Every year carol singers never fail to turn up at my door, Santa and his little helpers ride down the estates on their sleigh, handing out small packets of Haribo with a permanent smile wiped across their faces.

Lots of people come from all over to visit the Cotswolds during the festive season. Why wouldn’t you? It’s the perfect seasonal setting where you’ll find good pints, cosy cottages all with a fire burning and hearty grub made with local produce. Witney’s free parking, good shops (both independent and high street), large cinema and more draws a lots of people in.

When my friend was searching for good places to visit in Witney, she was offered up nothing more than reviews on TripAdvisor (which isn’t the most reliable source, let’s be honest!) You want something for Oxford? You’ll find it! Burford? You bet! And if you are keen to visit Woodstock for the day you can be sure you’ll be offered a guide for that too. But Witney and it’s surrounding areas? Forget it. To rectify this and to offer people a local’s insight into what to do when you’re visiting, I have decided to put together a summarisation of the best things to do/places to visit. Because I love organisation, I’m dividing the whole thing up into different posts, starting with the top places to get a tipple.

(Witney Christmas LightsPicture: Ric Mellis30/11/2018)

I asked people what they thought were the best bars/pubs – not including food – within a five-mile radius of the centre and, to my surprise received a remarkable 220+ responses. So, I tallied it all up and with my voice recorder in one hand and notepad and pen in the other, went out and carried my own *cough* research *cough* to find the best places to booze-cruise. Here it goes…


  • Of course, there are many great options but for the sake of keeping this (albeit somewhat) short and sweet, I couldn’t include them all. Feel free to comment your favourite below!
  • You may have to hop on the S1 or S2 bus or drive 5 minutes to get to some of these, but I PROMISE it’s worth it. You’ll thank me later…
  • I had to limit the radius from which I was pooling my pubs from in order to avoid a lengthy list.


This place is a relatively new kid to the block only having opened last November but that doesn’t mean it’s any less excellent. As I arrive, I am greeted by a very friendly-faced Scarlett behind the bar who makes me a Blackberry Mojito (and a delicious one at that!) A very generous sized glass of fruity purple with a healthy chunk of lime for good measure, it’s difficult to resist the urge to drink it all at once. Across the bar there is a middle-aged man reading the paper, enjoying a pint of Peroni and two ladies sip drinking wine at a stool in the middle. This is a place clearly enjoyed by a diverse mix of people. Without sounding cliché, the whole interior feels very shabby chic; fairy lights and candles on the table being the only source of light, soft, wooden furnishing and plush cushions compliment the mellow music being played. I’m told that all the furnishings are from local suppliers, as are the people employed to fit them.

I am joined by one of the four managers, Jimmy O’Brien, all of which live locally and have done for up to 22 years. By day they all have jobs at the local RAF base in Brize Norton as parachute jump instructors. After years of wanting to own a bar they eventually decided to bite the bullet on a work trip to America last year and, as if by magic, this place popped up for sale. Inspired by the opening of Siege Bar, their local ‘real-ale’ pub that recently opened in the area, the guys set out to establish a place that was suitable for everyone with a real emphasis on music, quality but affordable drinks and a ‘city feel.’ Jimmy tells me that on their opening night, the mayor thanked the guys for what they had done, bringing life and soul to a run-down town that people didn’t seem to give a second thought to. Since their opening and new Italian restaurant has opened across the road, as-well as a rather swanky café.grapes 2

There’s always a DJ on a Thursday that plays a range of disco to funky-house music and every Saturday local musicians play live music like Into the Ark and Jimmy’s band on the odd occasion. Deals on drinks can be found throughout the week on gin, cocktails and prosecco so you’re certainly not troubled for choice. The place was the first in West Oxfordshire to hold painting nights where an artist brings along her easels and teaches people to paint as they make their way through a bottle of wine. The changing of seasons sees a variety of events and parties, gin and wine tastings, as well as a new cocktail menu, so you always have something exciting around the corner with this spot.

You might have to drive 5 miles for this one, or pop on a quick bus, but I promise you won’t be disappointed. Although still young and finding their feet the guys are going strong and business is always increasing. There is something special about this place and as I finish my glass and get up to go all I feel is excitement as I plan when I’ll be returning.



If you find yourself looking for The Best Beer, as voted by Wadsworth in 2017, then swing on by to this small and cosy pub run by husband and wife, John and Jane. John took over this 16th century pub 3 years ago which prides itself in excellent real ales and always being flooded with locals. John lives upstairs and for him the pub is his child, his pride and job. He literally never leaves. The heart and soul that goes into the place is visible in the return of regulars who have been coming here long before I was even born. It remains virtually unchanged, bar a few essential redecorations, but that’s the key to their success and they know it.

Mum and dad are on the table across enjoying Sauvignon and Becks Blue in Dad’s attempt to do #Stoptober. There are young lads playing pool, old men enjoying a pint and watching the sports, a family enjoying a roast. This time I opt for dark rum and coke, no ice, which is poured by a young man who started only the day before. He’s friendly and we chat about his other job at Pizza Pilgrims whilst I wait for John.

John moved to Witney after liking the vibe of this place when he moved away from Ireland a couple years ago. There he spent 20 years in the pub and hospitality industry, even working in Mayfair for a few years until the pace of life became too much. He’s brought a bit of the Irish feel to the place, their best-selling beer being Guinness and a warm, friendly atmosphere being emitted throughout. I ask about opening times to which he responds, ‘whenever the first person’s here and the last person leaves.

Throughout the week you’ll find live music, usually from locals, which draw in a massive cliental off all ages and backgrounds. It’s likely if you are from Witney and pop in on one of these events, you’re going to see someone you know, another testament to their popularity. They show all the live sporting events too which is rather rare in Witney and, despite John’s accountant advising him to get rid of it to cut costs, John refused because the locals wanted it. Although this is focused on where to get the best bevvy, I simply can’t refrain not touch upon the weekly fresh-food deals they offer of fish and chips, pizza, pies and roasts. All fantastic, all fresh and all local with the meat being supplied from Baker’s Butchers in town.

After years and years this place is still hitting the nail on the head, providing locals and those wanting an authentic Cotswold pub to experience, a place to catch up with friends over a pint, listen to some great tunes and enjoy the sport.



This little gem of a place is hidden behind Carterton High St next to a car park, but it isn’t hard to find. It looks underwhelming from the outside but as soon as I step in, I’m smitten with the arty, bright and quirky interior. My eyes glisten as I spot a line-up of rums I’ve never heard of that are all eagerly awaiting me. It’s like Sophie’s choice; being offered such a vast array of rum is not a common occurrence in Witney with a town full of gin drinkers. In a fumble I choose trusty Old J Dark Spiced and boy, does it go down well. With it, a can of ‘Green Cola,’ an apparently more ethical alternative to Cola-Cola and healthier too.

Keeping to their environmental and moral ethics shows to be at the heart of this lovely place from the use of no straws, sourcing of local produce and unwillingness to compromise on these just to keep costs low and profits high. I’m led upstairs to chat to Emily, the assistant manager, who just so happens to be someone I went to Sixth Form with a few years ago, talk about small world…

Chris, the owner, opened this place four years ago predominantly as an Ale House with the philosophy that they try not to have the same thing twice or for too long. The cask ales only stay on rotation for one barrel all sourced from independent breweries with who they’ve established good relationships with over the years. Occasionally, if something is popular, they’ll reorder it in the future, but the bar operates on a one-in-one-out basis. If you’re keen to try something a bit different, love your ale and want to be educated by the staff in the process then this place will guarantee you that but don’t expect to go along as be greeted by your friendly usual Carlsberg or San Miguel because this isn’t that place. No Smirnoff or Gordons here folks, sorry not sorry!

They always have a cask ale on too and a larger which tends to change seasonally, opting for a Hawaiian company in Summer and a German one for Autumn.  Within their variety of drafts ales are more permanent members of the team and perhaps more recognisable, Hobgoblin IPA from the local Wychwood brewery in Witney town centre being a firm favourite and one I’d recommend trying! They even have stamp cards and for every 4 (different) craft ales you try you get one for free. In my opinion, this is very doable if you’re spending a good few hours here and a lot more reasonable than the *hut hum* 10 or 16 stamp cards that some places offer.

The place is exactly as Emily describes; an attack on the senses. Bright colours, in-your face paintings made by local graffiti artists, large posters sprawled across the walls and a piano in the corner which they invite you to come and play at free will. I’m not quite sure how well I’d fare though seeing as I can only play a very poor rendition of the Harry Potter theme tune. You can also try your hand at table-tennis and the guys host various quiz nights throughout the month, open mic nights on Tuesday with artists from around the area, spoken word/musical comedy nights, poker nights on Wednesdays and so much more.

Everyone here is so friendly and happy to talk to you about what they offer, guiding you in the right direction to try something brand new that they think you’ll like if you tell them what tipple usually tickles your taste buds. There’s an energetic vibe that is radiated throughout the bar and they welcome you as one of their own. If you’re in the Witney area and want to try something completely different and maybe a little out of your comfort zone, then this is the spot or you. I know I’ll be coming back and bringing as many of my friends here. Again and again and again…



The Bell Inn is the pinnacle of what it means to be a Cotswold pub. It’s a small pub-come-b&b in the heart of the small village of Ducklington, still within the Witney realm so have no fret, you won’t need to venture far. There’s only a couple of regulars at the bar and playing pool when I arrive, but it’s 1:00pm on a Wednesday so it’s to be expected. I vaguely recognise the manager and her son, but I don’t say anything as I can’t pinpoint where from. I’m offered a rum? Wine? Beer? Any drink I want really, on the house! Peppermint tea please.

The pub is cosy inside, though the fires not lit now it usually is when there are more people which I can only imagine goes down a treat. I sit with Leisa, the manager who took over the pub three months ago after working there for some time. The previous managers had done so and with great success for some time before retiring and, since the takeover Leisa has revamped a couple of things, keeping the pubs core values at its heart. Excellent ales, great grub and family-friendly service.

The fact that you can stay overnight invites people from far and wide, but don’t be surprised to walk in at any time of day to find someone from the local village sitting at the bar whose been coming here with his pals for years. You’ll be embraced by the pub as one too, greeted with a smile and cracking jokes as if you were only here yesterday. The place is very dog friendly and accommodating for those with dietary requirements or smaller appetites. Is is the pick of the bunch for you who choose love gin and an even better choice for all avid ale drinkers! There are menus and discounts available for all parties (apart from the dogs, but I think there are dog biscuits!) To paraphrase a Miley Cyrus song “if you’re 5 or 82 they’ll be something here for you…”

There are quiz nights, FIZZ FRIDAYS, live music events, seasonal parties and so much more getting people through the doors. Leisa is continuing to introduce and brainstorm ways to keep the pub exciting for all as she finds her feet, with a little help from her son’s poster-making skills of-course! Turns out I went to Primary School with him and I’m pretty sure we were girlfriend and boyfriend one afternoon aged 8, but that’s a story for another day. (If you hadn’t already figured out, Witney is a small community, where everyone knows everyone and their grandmother. But we’re friendly, and I promise we’ll open our doors to you as if you were our own.)

The sign on the door outside reads ‘Splendid Village Inn and Country Kitchen’ and this precisely what this place is. A warm, welcoming pub for all, and it upholds the image and atmosphere of what it means to be from the Cotswolds. If this is what you’re seeking, then look no further than The Bell. It really is a gem of a place that has been perfecting it’s craft and sticking to its roots for so long. These guys just do what they do best, and it isn’t going to stop any time soon.



This small pub might look a bit run down and neglected from the outside, you might think it needs a good lick of paint or scrub down, but that’s all part of its charm. So, go on, open up the door, it’ll make a bit of a creek and the bell will ring as you step in and you may wonder what quite of place I’ve led you to…


Inside you’re probably going to find lots of men drinking pints alone, many watching the sports. There might be a group of younger lads at the back playing pool. You’ll be greeted by smiley staff and probably be a little surprised at how young they all seem working in such a seemingly old pub. You really ought to opt for a pint when you’re here and you can be sure to see all the familiars sitting behind the bar; Becks, Stella, Strongbow etc, but you should go for the Hobgoblin, it’s their best seller. Why wouldn’t it be when the Brewery is literally out the back door? Talk about local.

Despite being a 21-year old female sat alone, I don’t feel at all awkward or out of place and I stay to watch the Liverpool game. I’m not sure if anyone is expecting me today by the vibe I am getting, but the match is on at 4 so I’m one happy customer! The elderly man sat next to me, a fellow Liverpool supporter might I add, is sat alone too and starts up conversation. What starts as a conversation about either team’s poor performance throughout the game evolves into a long chat all about his life story, my future goal and what it’s like living in Witney now as opposed to what it was once. He shares his advice, his mistakes and buys me a drink; I offer to buy him a pint in return, but he chuckles and tells me to save my pennies as I need them more than him. That’s the nice thing about this place, in a sea of strangers you can connect with someone. It encourages newcomers to talk to the older regulars who have been coming here years. You don’t feel out of place or uncomfortable but welcomed with wide arms.


There’s live music  this evening too by the same guy who runs the sessions at The Bell Inn and The Griffin (his name is James Morgan and he hosts a lot of music events in Witney and the surrounding areas, to check out what he’s got going on check out @jamesmorganpresents on Instagram!) The pub also offers small nibbles of your typical bar snacks such as pork scratchings, croquettes, samosas and daily soup. Larger meals are available with steaks, hearty pies and rich casseroles on offer, and perhaps a traditional pudding to finish it all off? All reasonably priced, homemade and local. There was nothing here for me as a vegan though, but i didn’t ask if they could whip anything up especially. They might have!

Everything about the pub is stereotypical of a quaint Oxfordshire establishment. They stick to tradition, doing what they do best and doing it well, not dressing themselves up to be something they’re not. If you want somewhere doing something that British pubs have been known to do well for so long which is pints and sports, then this is your place. I’d definitely opt for this place over many other pubs to watch a game and by the look of the amount of people who have been coming year for years on end, so do many others.



I remember visiting the Tavern with my parents as we walked home from the market on Saturdays through Winter. It was the perfect pitstop where you knew you’d always get a seat, a decent pint and that the fire would be on. Plus, with all the heavy bags of fruit and vegetables for that Sunday’s roast, it was convenient and provided the necessary energy boost. This was pre-university, pre-drinking (AN: read rum) days and only being ever able to get a coke or J20, the place never sparked much of an interest for me. Quite frankly, I considered it to be a dive for old men. Fast forward a few years later, and it’s one of my regular hang outs, often on a Saturday, often on the walk home. Sometimes tradition is nice.

The pub is thought to be Witney’s oldest pub, with records dating back to 1752. It seems as though not much has changed since! The previous owners ran it for 15 years and became disinterested eventually,, wanting a change of scenery. That’s when Paul Spink, also the owner of Fat Lils that puts on great music events, took over in April 2019 and since then has given the place a bit of TLC.

He gave it a new reputation and the love and attention it deserved making it the now very successful pub it is. A card system was introduced, a Gin Club to celebrate the plethora of unique gin they offer, dogs made welcome and a smidge of redecoration was done. The place got involved with #wearitpink this October, using their Juke Box to raise money for Breast Cancer Research and in November they’re raising money for Movember UK. The bar also hosted the World Cup Games this year and opened their doors as early as 8:15am, sometimes in the torrential weather to invite people in for free bacon butties and to watch the game.

Despite the small renovation and re-gig of a few things, Paul wanted to keep the pub traditional. They’re not a gastropub; they’re not going to suddenly add new flashy lights and start serving cocktails. With the success of the pub growing and the increasing number of people walking through the door (or all ages now) on a weekend, there are some changes the owners now want to introduce. A lick of paint here and there to tidy things up, maybe a few features need fixing and they’re even discussing the introduction of DIY traditional ploughman’s platters being served between 12-2pm come New Year. I’m not talking olives, hummus and burrata boards, no I’m talking old-school British snacks of pork pies, sausage rolls, cheese and meat boards. All locally sourced Paul says, but I wouldn’t expect anything less with the offers on-hand around here. They’re even going to try to accommodate a variety of diets so everyone can enjoy.

This place reminds me of being home. I go in here alone sometimes to work and read, or I drag in those friends who might not of been in previously to try my favourite Mount Gay Eclipse (which I’m forever grateful to Benny from the Tavern for introducing to me.) I highly recommend checking this spot out whilst you’re here. It is worth noting, is isn’t child friendly though so if you have got youngsters, maybe leave them at the park or the pottery painting place for an hour or so whilst you visit!

You should also try to check out Fat Lils too (next door) which hosts music events pretty much throughout the week and weekend, cracking themed parties during the year and a chilled vinyl afternoon on Sundays which are nice to wind down the weekend with.


Lauren X


*This is a peice of fiction I once did for an assignment after being inspired to bake after watching GBBO. However, having very little baking ability, and none of the ingredients, I decided to make up an imaginary character and write about it instead. I saw a recipe for this pineapple one and thought, if you ever got the same baking bug you might want to try it out. You never know, it may perk up a gloomy Winter’s day. The original recipe is from Nigella, but for the sake of copyright I changed it so probably don’t try my rendition. Try hers, I bet it’s great because everything Nigella is impeccable. Link here:  https://www.nigella.com/recipes/pineapple-upside-down-cake * 

Celebrating Summer 

Every year when I was a child my parents would go away by themselves in the summer holidays and leave my brother and I at our grandparent’s house in The Midlands. My Grandad usually dragged my brother to some football game leaving me with my nan, who didn’t drive and didn’t particularly like to stray from the house in her old age unless accompanied. They lived on a rough estate where stabbings and drug-abuse were not uncommon. It was very culturally diverse; I remember thinking it felt like several different countries had been squeezed together onto one estate.                                                Meanwhile, I came from a small town in Oxfordshire where, apart from a few Polish residents that ran the local corner shop, most of the inhabitants were white, middle-class and British. Rather than living in a city built of concrete, I stepped out of my house only to be greeted by fields where you could roam for hours, picking blackberries and cooking apples in August to make the perfect crumble.

For me, it was always a shock to the system visiting such a place and, as a child my naivety caused this to leave me unsettled, wanting to sleep in my Grandad’s bed until I was ten because he was a retired policeman who practised martial arts so I thought he’d protect me well in the incident of a break in. As a I grew older however, I came to enjoy my local visit to the get the paper from the nearby shop run by a Pakistan family who were always friendly. When Grandad hurt his leg when one year, I felt so brave going on my own, striding into the shop with my head high, knowing exactly what I wanted. They always asked if everyone was in good health and ended every visit with ‘God bless you.’ I looked forward to taking the dog for a walk at sunset where I’d bump into the Chinese couple across the road, whose names I never knew. We always talked for several minutes about how school was going and if I’d tried Wonton Soup yet; I now have, and it is by far one of my favourite dishes. My grandparent’s little estate was, for me, a holiday from home where class, racial and religious differences were thrown out the window and instead you were judged by how good a neighbour who were.

When I was six, we had an unusually wet Summer, grey clouds permanently covering the sky and the sound of rainfall becoming white noise in the background. The boys had gone out and my nan could tell by my loud sighs and fidgety feet that I was bored. Colouring pencils and bad TV didn’t ease my creative mind and boundless energy.

“Lets bake a cake!” she said.

“Bake a cake? What kind of cake?” I was puzzled. My nan was always regarded as a passionate cook, but a baker she was not. In fact, she had confessed on many occasions that baking was too scientific and restrictive whilst she enjoyed the freedom cooking provided. The ability to drift from the recipe or throw random things into a pot with a mere imagine in mind of the final product and somehow all would work out. This was not the case with baking, it required focus, precision and patience; all qualities my nan confessed she lacked.

“I don’t know, I think I saw a recipe for a pineapple cake in the paper. Sort of like an ‘end of summer’ cake. I think I have all the ingredients, except tinned pineapple rings,  but I’m sure they sell them at the shop if you put a coat on.“ Within 5 minutes I was back, soaked to my skin and shivering, panting and proudly presenting the pineapple to my Nan who had already measured out the other ingredients.

Two hours and lots of love and concentration later, the cake was fresh from the oven, its citrusy aromas filling the kitchen. We let it cool and cut a slice to share, the sweet juices spilling down our face and into the warm, white sands of a tropical beach. It was delightful and for a small moment we were no longer in rainy England, but some exotic holiday resort, sunbathing and drinking fresh juice. The cake soon accompanied every family gathering and every year at the end of summer my nan and I would bake it whilst the boys were out. It was eaten at every celebration, during every sorrowful period, on every first day of school and the last, for every boyfriend and break up. The pineapple upside-down cake became the epitome of tradition and my nan became the family baker from that day on.

When I was fourteen my parents decided that my brother and I were old enough to look after ourselves and that was the first year of many years that I would not visit my grand-parents in the Summer. Soon my nan began to decline in health; the upside-down pineapple cake became my sole project in those dark days, and I would take it her in hospital to make her smile.                                                                                                                  I must confess that for a while my affections became divided between the pineapple cake and the banana loaf my mum made every Sunday evening to use up over-ripe bananas. It was so unambiguous, simple and easy to make with ingredients already in the pantry that it competed with the tropical fruit cake and its complexities. After a couple of years, the spongy delight began to bore me however, it reminded me of health cafes and leftovers rather than white sands, pina coladas and my nan. The natural golds and browns of the pineapple cake began to speak to me of their just-rightness once more.

Alas, there were many years when I couldn’t make this cake. Unthinkably, Nan’s little handwritten recipe note card disappeared with her death and the first few years of my adulthood cake-poor. I wanted to make it for my first boyfriend, my flatmates at university, my graduation but I knew no-one else who had the recipe and Google provided no answer to my searches. I searched for hours on end in every cookbook I stumbled across, but to no avail. This cake, the only cake I couldn’t reproduce, became my forbidden fruit, the apple to my Eve. I longed for it, daydreamed about it, and never came to terms with its loss.

I missed my erratic Nan and the Summers spent with her and as much as I adore to cook, I could never reciprocate he culinary capabilities. After all, she’s the one who first put the Joy of Cooking into my hands. She’s the one who bravely stuffed a suckling pig into our tiny oven one Christmas, a piglet that all of us refused to eat and convinced me to go vegetarian. She gave me my sense of fearlessness and adventure in the kitchen, for which I am profoundly thankful. Her most tangible legacy was that recipe card, and I had let it vanish.

One day, I mentioned the cake to a colleague explaining that the defining features of the cake were the addition of pineapple juice to the batter, the lightness of the beaten eggs whites and the fact it’s baked in a cast iron skillet. I went on to lament the fact that I still had my Nan’s very skillet that we had baked our first pineapple cake in which was gathering dust at the back of the kitchen cupboards; yet I did not possess the recipe. Then came the moment later that evening, so shocking and as sweet as the pineapples themselves, she emailed me with a link to a recipe and a ‘P.S. Could this be the one?!’                                                                                                                                                                    I don’t think there’s a word in English to describe the bliss induced by tasting a long-lost childhood food. Maybe it’s relief. I felt an enormous sense of relief, as if knowledge of the precise proportions of the cake’s nine ingredients set to rights a dessert universe that had been tilting along sadly, bereft of this confection. And I learned that, contrary to popular wisdom, yes, I could go visit Nan again. This was not to be one of those stories wherein the heroine returns to her childhood home and is amazed by how small and untidy everything is. The cake tasted just as it always had, just as it should.

I love baking, I still do it for my friends and family. I often make them fancy cakes; I love to bake them, and they love to eat them. But the one thing I don’t touch is Nan’s pineapple upside-down cake. Even though I have the recipe, I can’t bear to make it, nestling the fruit and nuts symmetrically into the warm topping, pouring the fluffy batter over it all. There’s no way I could duplicate the taste my nan had done for so many years.

So, if I could choose, this cake would be my last meal. And I don’t mean that I’d want a genteel slice as a part of a well-balanced plate containing all the food groups. I’d do my very best to eat the entire cake, all by myself. That’s something I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember. To peacefully drift away on a wave of pineapple, brown sugar, and pecans, time-traveling back to when I was a young girl first learning to work her magic in the kitchen with her Nanna. This cake is one that invites another bite, another slice. My Nanna’s been gone now for a few years, but this cake and the memories it holds will live on for many to come and every year, as Summer draws to a close, I will celebrate her life with a slice of pineapple cake.

The recipe: (serves 8)

AN: This cake should always be made in a cast-iron skillet; I still have my nans from years ago.

  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • 1 ½ cups firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup pecan halves
  • 1 20 ounce can pineapple slices packed in juice, reserving 5 tablespoons juice
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt


Preheat oven to 350°F.

Melt the butter in a 9-inch cast iron skillet. Add the brown sugar and stir well to thoroughly combine, then turn off the heat. Arrange 7 pineapple slices in a single layer over the brown sugar mixture (your 9-inch skillet should accommodate 7 slices without overlapping). Fill the spaces between the pineapple rings with the pecans, centering one in the middle of each ring and arranging the rest as artistically as possible. Turn the pecans upside-down, so that they will be right side up when you invert the cake later. Set the skillet aside.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl; set aside.

Beat the egg yolks at medium speed until they are thick, and lemon coloured. Gradually add the sugar, continuing to beat. On low speed, add the flour mixture to the yolk mixture, and gently mix in the reserved pineapple juice.

Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold the whites into the cake batter. Pour or spoon the batter evenly over the pineapple slices.

Bake at 350°F for 40 to 45 minutes. Cool the cake in the skillet for 30 minutes; then invert it onto a serving plate.

*Further notes:  I learned that lining my iron skillet or any other container with parchment works very well for turning out the cake from pan. Sometimes a bit of the toffee/sugar stuff stays in the pan when I invert it, but I just scrape it all on to the hot cake and it all melts right in and once it’s cooled, you don’t notice. 


When you’re feeling depressed, sometimes all you want to do is crawl into bed and watch a movie. That is OK. That is Human. I have been known to get myself in a cycle of self-destruction as I fear if I feel sad and just ‘mulch’ about, I’ll feel guilty and only worse. So, I pack my day with so much stuff and plaster a smile on my face to convince everyone I’m fine, until I evidentally burn out and crash into a messy pile of tears and anger which I take out on those around me.

We’re always told to ‘fake it til you make it’ and write down 5 positive things and yes, sometimes this helps. This can be dangerous though as we begin to think we should feel ashamed for having dark days, as if they’re not as important and as valuable to self-development as those that are better. I’m a firm believer that if you’re having a bad mental health moment, you should honour it. Like a child you should give it the attention it deserves for a certain amount of time, be that an afternoon, an entire day or a couple of days. During this time you should nurture it, treat it with care, give your brain nourishment and rest. Feed it with good films, books and food then go and make 1001 cups of tea and hot water bottles because it’s the RIGHT THING TO DO.

Picking the right film to lift you out of a funk is an art. In my opinion the movie you pick should have one of two qualities. It should either remind you that life is so beautiful and meaningful that the bad days are worth it, or it should be so absurd that you forget that your problems exist. If it can toe the line between both, even better.

But I will say that choosing the wrong movie can keep you feeling down in the dumps. More than once, I’ve heard someone recommend The Notebook as good viewing for a bad day, making me seriously question their judgment. To stay in the feel-good sphere, the movie you pick should not take place during a war, involve the death of a parent, lover, or other cherished character, contain gratuitous violence, or be based on a Nicholas Sparks book. For a safe bet, try one of these films.

MATILDA (1996)

Ok, before you start lecturing me on how Matilda is just a silly children’s film, pocket your pessimism and snobbery for just a moment and hear me out. With a super genius five-year-old girl who just so happens to possess magical powers and endless family problems, a crook of a dad played by DeVito who sells old, beat up cars and a terrifying Trunchbull who locks people in cells, what isn’t to love? Matilda is the epitome of powerlessness in a world dominated by uneducated criminals and vicious bullies disguised as ‘responsible adults.’ Dressed up with adorable names like ‘Miss Lavender’ and ‘Honey,’ plenty of mischief, a scene invoving everyone cheering on a fat kid to gorge on a chocolate cake we all wish we had for our birthday and probably one of the coolest movie soundtracks ever, the whole thing is utterly charming.


Matt Damon stars as a mathematical genius who is equally arrogant yet loveable at the same time. He is ironed out by one of the most joyful people ever to be seen on screen, Robin Williams. Lessons in what it means to be vulnerable and how to come head-to-head with your own deep rooted issues are taught through a tale of friendship, love and how making mistakes is perfectly human. This film is funny, heart-warming and heart-wrenching all at once. Prepare some tissues as you’ll be both crying with laughter and sadness through the whole thing.


Love, friendship and the importance of standing out from the crowd is told through singing and dancing penguins. Need i say more? Plus, with all the talk of climate change at the moment, the smaller themes of melting ice-caps and animal extinction feel very topical. Whilst the first film leaves you feeling all gooey inside and will surely have you breaking out in song and dance for days after, don’t bother with the sequel. Take my word for it.

AMELIE (2001) 

Amelie’s magic lies in how it defines us, not by materialistic objects, but by our actions, the unusual aspects of our personalities. Our quirks, which we’re sometimes ashamed of, are what makes us unique and gives us our humanity. Beyond a mere boy-meets-girl love story, Jean-Pierre Jeunet presents us with a story about a protagonist who, in trying to fix all of the problems of those around her, ignores her own happiness in the process.  All this is set in the backdrop of the wonderful, pretty peculiar and vibrant city of Paris and embedded with wonderfully weird characters. You’ll be swept off your feet in style with this film and be left longing to the learn the Accordian. That I guarantee.

ALADDIN (1992) 

Now, any Disney film is really applicable here; choose your favourite in my opinion! For me though this classic tale of sorcery, song, dance and a street rat’s rise to the top is one of the best Walt has to offer us. An admirable underdog (who we all relate to) falls madly in love with a beautiful princess (who we all want to be!) Despite the evil-sorcerer, difference in social-status and unfortunate mishaps throughout, the two are brought together by a hilarious and witty genie, a flying carpet and a misbehaving monkey.  When you feel like crap, do yourself a favour and take a visit to The Cave of Wonders where you’ll find a whole new world and realise you’re a diamond in the ruff.


The human foot has 26 bones, 19 muscles and tendons, 33 joints and 107 ligaments. If we did the recommended 10,000 steps a day that is 185,000 movements just within one foot alone. That’s 350,000 movements in your feet. These movements that allow us to walk don’t even credit the movement require in the bending of our legs or the swinging of our arm.

I considered this when I was on a walk with my dog the other day; how marvellous my feet are. I focused on the way my toes curl and uncurl with every step in order to grip onto the ground. I listened to the crunching of the leaves beneath my feet, revelling in the satisfaction that the sound bought me.

I took note of my breathing and my heart, trying to fathom how my body could hold hundreds of thousands of miles of blood vessels with enough iron to create a 3-inch long nail inside. Our hearts beat between 60-80 beats per minute equating to over 3 billion beats a lifetime. Each beat, when you pay attention, seems so simple and as if cleverly co-ordinated by a machine but in reality each beat itself if far more complex involving contractions of the aorta and ventricles, AV and semilunar valves all controlled by the admission of an electrical currents between the nodes within the heart.  I spent a good minute of the walk solely homing in on these movements that go unrecognized and equally unappreciated each and every day.

The 576 megapixels of my eye (far better than any Canon camera you can buy on Amazon) means I see the leaves dance to the rhythm of the wind and distinguish between 10 million different shades that the seasons provide. I can hear the songs the birds are singing and feel the bark peeling away from the trees towering over me, protecting me from the rain that feels fresh upon my face and is almost sweet to taste. These thoughts that I am thinking as I am walking are involving the signalling of nerve impulses to my brain at the mind-boggling motion of 250 miles per hour.

I’ve been doing this a lot recently; thinking about the tiny and seemingly insignificant but actually vital miracles that I can perform. It is these thoughts that allow me to rationalize things and put situations into perspective when I can feel myself becoming out of touch with reality or overwhelmed by seemingly sizeable issues.  It is somewhat selfish of us to complain about muddy footprints on the floor or the windy weather of winter when every second of every day or bodies are carrying out functions outside of anything we can imagine in order to keep us ALIVE.

Next time you feel stressed, ungrateful, anxious even, take notice of your senses, appreciate your surroundings and for a moment, just a minuscule moment of your day, appreciate the craftiness of your creation.


My body is my vessel
But I treat it like a sin
I punish, suffer, starve
To ease the pain within

Nothing seems to matter
When my mirror’s face is fat
I look at endless pictures;
Girls pencil thin and flat

I warp and twist my body
Proud to see the bones
They said to worship Ana
Because without her I’m alone

My choices cut me deeply
Form holes inside my heart
Taking joy in degradation
As I tear myself apart

I did not want to hurt them
I did not want to rot
All I wanted was perfection
But this just hurts a lot