The Six Nations is the best!

Round & About


The annual rugby tournament is something to look forward to in this grim month

Shortest day of the year, done. Christmas, hecho. All that’s left is to traverse these next couple of drizzly months before we welcome Wimbledon, Glastonbury and ‘might be too hot’ season. For now, though, we need a vehicle to steer us towards those better days. How about the best sporting tournament on Earth? Oh, go on then. Six Nations time.

Nothing brought my family together quite like the Six Nations growing up. We’d all flood over to my grandparents early enough to be fully caught up with each other in time for the build up to start with John Inverdale or Gabby Logan. You can’t fault our dedication to the pre-match interviews.

As a family resonating from Scotland, we’d sit around the telly, fire crackling, daring to ponder whether today maybe, just maybe would be different. Might Scotland pull a performance out of the bag and pick up their seemingly biennial win? Oh, that renewed hope, always a killer. The game would very rarely be different, and Scotland would very rarely win. But that was never the point (thankfully, or we’d crumble); it was just a nice event to be a part of. So why is the Six Nations the best?

For starters, it’s a simple easy-to-follow format that works. Six teams. Five rounds. Every home nation plays each other, and you never really know who’s going to win any of the three games that take place each weekend. Jeopardy also plays a huge part. So few games equals very few (if any) dead rubbers.

It’s tribal, without being tribal. It always amazes me how these players knocking chunks out of each other manage to channel their aggression so skilfully, but the same goes for those watching on. You’d think you’d need segregation, but oh no. Tens of thousands of fans packed into some of the best sporting arenas in the world, all mixing. A healthy attitude, and an element of perspective seems to be a common supporter denominator. Well let’s hope we win but if we don’t then that’ll be a shame, but this is a fun way to spend a Saturday anyway.

It’s also a spectacle, and it’s dangerous. Thirty people doing things you wouldn’t dream of doing. The players on the pitch become fictional, putting their bodies on the line, running and catching under pressure which feels so far removed from anything we do day to day; unless you are reading this and are some form of medical professional.

The tournament that’s a little under a quarter of a century old in its current format has geography to thank for its success too. London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Dublin, Paris and Rome. All varied and popular cities, close enough together that a large number of away supporters will make the trip, but just far enough away that you need to make a weekend of it and populate the local pubs for the weekend.

Rugby is still faced with huge challenges. It has to find a way to navigate its way through a sea of safety concerns that need to be taken seriously and fend off the red trousers and brogues stereotype; something Full Contact on Netflix has made a brilliant start in debugging (just watch Finn Russell and Ellis Genge in the first two episodes). Though through the evolving sporting landscape, emerging new tournaments, investors and formats, the Six Nations is something we’re very lucky to live with, and I really hope it never gets taken away from us.

Three Hogs for Three Lions

Karen Neville


Hogs Back Brewery backs England’s World Cup bid with free beer (if they reach the final)

Surrey-based Hogs Back Brewery is offering drinkers a free pint of Three Hogs, its beer specially brewed for football-watching, if England reach the World Cup final in December.

The brewer is ready for a bonanza beer giveaway, after it made the same pledge last year and honoured it when England reached the Euros final. Three Hogs was first brewed for the Euros in 2016 and will be available on draught and in 500ml bottles.

A 4% ABV golden ale, Three Hogs in brewed with a selection of English malts and hops including Fuggles grown in the Hogs Back hop garden next to the brewery, as well as Cascade and Centennial. The pump clip and bottle label describe the ale as “a beer of two halves: refreshingly hoppy up front, followed by a balancing bitterness and a hint of sweetness to finish.”

Hogs Back Brewery managing director Rupert Thompson said: “Many Hog Back drinkers look forward to the return of Three Hogs with each international tournament. This World Cup is going to feel very different to the euros, taking place at a different time of year, and in a different time zone. But the nation’s hopes will still be pinned on England lifting the trophy, especially after they reached the finals last year.

“Millions of people will be watching the home nations’ matches with friends, family and fellow football lovers. A pint of easy-drinking beer like Three Hogs is an enjoyable part of the occasion. Let’s hope that we might finally be raising a glass to a victorious English side on 18th December.”

Hogs Back will be screening a number of matches in its Brewery Tap, depending on timings, including the England v Wales fixture on 29th November. Guests will be able to enjoy the football accompanied by a range of Hogs Back beers and food including their popular stone-baked pizzas. Bookings for places or tables are open at

Thompson added: “During the Euros, the excitement in the Brewery Tap built to fever pitch, and we were sold out ahead of the final. It’s a great space for watching sport and we’re looking forward to welcoming football fans to enjoy the tournament with us again.”

If England reach the final, customers will be able to claim a free pint of Three Hogs – or another Hogs Back beer, depending on availability – by visiting the Brewery Tap between 11am and 2pm on 18th December.

Three Hogs, Hogs Back’s beer for the World Cup, is available on draught and in 500ml bottles

Blue Collar Corner’s November showcase

Ellie Cox


A fabulous mix of music from DJ Huey Morgan and The Amazons headline beside some straight talking from former Reading FC manager Brian McDermott in Reading this month

Local independent street food specialist Blue Collar, are bringing big names to Blue Collar Corner for their extensive November events schedule. 

What’s on

On Saturday 19th November, Fun Lovin’ Criminals frontman and Radio 6 Music DJ Huey Morgan brings his NYC Block Party to Blue Collar Corner. Running from midday until midnight and with free entry throughout, Huey Morgan’s NYC Block Party will be a riotous celebration of the Good Times feature the sound of funk, soul, disco and hip hop jams. Huey will be playing a special early evening set, ensuring younger fans also get to enjoy his set, under 18s are welcome until 8pm.

Former Reading FC manager, Brian McDermott, who famously lead the Royals to promotion into the Premier League in 2012, hosts a presentation entitled Winning, Losing, Mental Health & Finding Balance followed by an audience Q&A. Brian will share his story of dealing with the highs and lows of football including feelings of not being ‘good enough’ and having to cope with anxiety, depression and an alcohol addiction. Two sessions of the presentation, on Tuesday 15th and Wednesday 16th are sold out. The third and final evening with Brian is on Wednesday 23rd and tickets are available now from

Fresh from reaching number five in the UK Official Albums Chart with their third album How Will I Know If Heaven Will Find Me, local indie rockers The Amazons head to Blue Collar Corner for a special hometown DJ set on Thursday 17th Noember. The band will be celebrating the end of their current album tour which has taken them across Europe and the UK, including a packed-out show at Roundhouse, London. The Amazons’ DJ set will be part of the Indie Thursdays night, Blue Collar Corner’s weekly free entry night of indie anthems and alternative favourites.

“We could not be more excited about this month at Blue Collar Corner”, says Blue Collar’s Glen Dinning. “Brian McDermott is my hero and having him agree to tell his story at Blue Collar Corner is very special to me. I’ve also always loved watching England’s World Cup games with friends so I can’t wait for the moment when we kick off our first game and cheer on the lads.”

He continues: “October’s guest and resident DJ sets at Blue Collar Corner were a big hit, so we’re really happy to have a strong mixture of both again in November, keeping up the great vibes into the evening to fit with our later opening hours. The Amazons’ latest album is probably my favourite of the year so I’m really looking forward to hearing what they play when they join us for their DJ set on Thursday 17th.”

Blue Collar Event manager Pete Wheeler adds: “We’re also thrilled to have a rare free entry DJ set from Huey Morgan when he plays an early evening set for us on Saturday 19th. His Saturday lunchtime shows on BBC 6 Music are always full of great funk, soul, disco and hip hop selections so we’re definitely in for a treat when he brings his NYC Block Party to Reading.”

Also at Blue Collar Corner this month, Reading’s Indie Market bring their popular local art, craft and produce stalls to the venue on Sunday 6th. Music lovers get to dig the crates for bargains and rarities at Blue Collar Record Fair & Social on Sunday 20th. On the same date (20th November), the venue begins its screenings of selected World Cup 2022 football games, showing the opening ceremony and opening game. England kick off their campaign the following day (Monday 21st) against Iran at 1pm, tables can be reserved now for this and England’s other group games at

Then on Saturday 26th November, Blue Collar Corner present their first R’n’B Brunch. Cheekily entitled Pop Ya Collar, expect three hours of nothing but solid gold 90s & 00s R’n’B jams. Pop ya collar while they pop the cork on your bottle of Prosecco or serve you up a gin n’ juice. No diggity, no doubt.

For the full Blue Collar events line up for November visit

Respect your elders! Five recipes

Liz Nicholls


August is the zenith of elderflower season, with this floral yet tropical flavoured plant gracing many a hedgerow in this gorgeous part of the world.

The plant is known for its white flowers which sprawl out of the stem and will begin to flourish from May lasting through to August, when it then begins to develop purple elderberries.

The fresh, floral, and slightly tropical taste makes the flower a great base for many recipes. The taste is often compared to a more floral version of pear or lychee.

Most commonly, elderflower is found in cordial drinks, but the versatile ingredient has far more to offer…

How to spot elderflower

Elderflower’s most recognisable element is its sprawling white flowers which look like a burst of small creamy petals. The tree itself will be small in size, often just a shrub. It is plentiful throughout the UK and often grows in woods, hedges or even in parks or on big streets. However, before you even spot the flower, you may be able to smell it! Elderflower has a distinctive aroma which many liken to ‘the smell of summer’ – it should smell floral and creamy. If the flowers have a brown colour or smell musty, it’s best to leave that plant. Lastly, be sure you’re not confusing elderflower with other similar looking plants like Pyracantha or Cow Parsley. If possible, take a photo of elderflower with you so you can compare. Remember that elderflowers grow from woody, leafy branches, have 5 rounded petals and yellow anthers.

How to prepare your elderflower

If you can, try to pick your elderflower in fair weather. The blooms will be packed with pollen and it’s this which gives the plant its signature taste. Poor weather can mean that the pollen has been washed or blown away, resulting in a less flavourful return. It’s also worth avoiding any elderflowers from beside road or railway lines as these can be tainted with fumes, instead try to wander farther afield for your crop. This is important as when you come to prepare your flowers, you shouldn’t wash them, as this will remove the aforementioned pollen.

Instead, pick off any bugs then trim the blossoms into a container ensuring you gather any pollen that falls away. Discard the stems. It’s best to use elderflower right away, but if you do need to store it, place your flowers in a paper bag and keep in a cool, dry place.

Recipe ideas


Elderflower Champagne is the perfect, elegant use for these flowers. To make a batch of your own you’ll need sugar, lemons, and some white wine vinegar.

A simple recipe can be found from River Cottage requiring only basic equipment and some appropriate bottles of choice, just make sure these have a cork or stopper to create that fizz!

This recipe requires a little patience as you’ll need to wait at least a week before your batch is ready. If you plan on storing your champagne, you may need to pop the lid occasionally to release excess pressure from building up.

Once ready, the drink makes a perfect garden party tipple, ideal for sharing with friends!


This recipe is much simpler than it sounds. All you need is flour, baking powder, icing sugar and sparkling water. Simply mix the first three ingredients together then add your sparkling water. Aim for a thick texture that is still a little runny. Once ready, dip in your elderflower heads then add to a pan of hot, but not smoking, oil. The fritters should turn golden brown and be ready to remove in under a minute. Once ready, remove and leave to dry on kitchen paper, then dust in icing sugar or serve with a drizzle of honey. For a more adventurous taste, swap out the sparkling water for beer or ginger beer for a different twist.


Sorbet is a simple and versatile way to use your elderflowers. Bring two parts water and one parts sugar to a boil, add in your ingredients, simmer, cool for at least an hour, leave to infuse, strain, then pour into containers to freeze.

The best thing about creating sorbet is that you can experiment with flavours. Some great options to add to your elderflower include lemon, gin, strawberry, or rhubarb. A perfect cooling dessert for summer that’s easy to make, store and enjoy. Top with fresh fruit, biscuits, or add to sparkling wine for a simple, yet elegant, cocktail.


One effortless way to use your elderflower is to make tea. All you need for this is your elderflower cuttings, a cup and something to strain the liquid. Once you’ve trimmed your elderflowers, hang them upside down in a light, airy place to allow the flowers to dry out. Once done, keep your elderflower in a tin and store for when you want to make a cup. To make the tea, all you need to do is add elderflowers to boiling water and allow it to infuse. After a few minutes, strain the liquid into a cup of your choice. Alternatively, if you have a tea strainer, simply put your elderflowers cuttings inside and cover with hot water.


Last but not least, elderflower has always been a firm favourite with bakers, giving cakes a sweet but subtle twist. Royal fans may remember that Harry and Meghan opted for a lemon and elderflower cake at their wedding, adorned with fresh flowers. There’s a wealth of options if you’re looking to use elderflower in baking from adding into the mix, creating an elderflower syrup, or mixing it into a buttercream filling or topping. When it comes to the perfect flavour pairings, lemon is often the most popular choice, but pistachio, raspberries, or blueberries also make great combinations. For the perfect summer showstopper, try drizzling your cake with icing and topping with edible flowers.

“Elderflower can be a wonderfully diverse ingredient, while its flavour is distinctive, it’s sweet and floral nature means it pairs well with a wealth of other flavours,” says Kate Cartwright of Burleigh Pottery.

“Luckily in the UK, elder trees are abundant, meaning it’s highly likely you’ll be able to forage some elderflower for yourself. Just look out for the bursts of white flowers which should be blooming anytime now. When done responsibly, foraging is a great way to take advantage of the wonderful wild plants and ingredients we have in our country. Using local ingredients allows us to be more sustainable and cooking with wildflowers such as elderflower embraces and celebrates the ingredients we have all around us.”

A final word

It’s important to be responsible when foraging and there are some basic principles you should follow:

• Don’t take more than you need.

• Be careful not to trample or damage plants.

• Leave lots behind.

• Be sure you have identified the plant before consuming.

• Seek permission on private land.

• Elderflower mildly toxic when raw. Cooking destroys the toxic chemicals.

English Tourism Week

Round & About


Forget Brexit, get out and explore England with English Tourism Week

There is so much to be enjoyed in our green and pleasant land and to celebrate this, English Tourism Week  which starts on Saturday, 30th March and runs until Sunday, 7th April has some great ideas.

The annual celebration of English tourism showcases a wide range of visitor experiences with fabulous ways to mark the beginning of England’s summer season whether it’s a short trip, day out or mini break.

There are so many places and experiences to enjoy in the Round & About area that we couldn’t possibly start to choose one over another but why not venture further afield into Surrey if you live in Oxfordshire or how about travelling from Berkshire to Gloucestershire – you may just be surprised by what you find there.

Visit Surrey to enjoy everything from theme parks and fast cars to take your breath away to the tranquillity of the Surrey countryside.
Oxford and Oxfordshire is about so much more than just dreaming spires and history, wander through covered markets, manor houses and designer outlets to satisfy your retail needs.

There’s something for the whole family in Berkshire from royal castles to music festivals and exciting sporting events while Gloucestershire boasts elegant spa and picturesque market towns to relax in.

England’s heritage is at the fore in Buckinghamshire which has more than it’s fair share of manor houses and stately homes set in rolling countryside while Hampshire can boast the enchanting New Forest and the chance to taste the sea air.

Perhaps fairytale castles are your thing – how about a visit to West Sussex for country house estates and coastal towns or Wiltshire for iron age forts or those standing stones, better known as Stonehenge.
And lest we forget, there’s London too…

For more great things than you’ll have time to do in one trip, go to