Mark Butcher looks back on three years at The White Hart in Wytham while battling the snow

As I approach my third anniversary as landlord of The White Hart of Wytham, I’m thinking about changing the name to “The Perseverance”. There are six inches of snow outside and we’ve been unable to open for the second successive day as the entire village of Wytham is still without power, which means no food, no phones and an extremely weak mobile phone signal, unless you walk halfway up the hill towards Wytham Woods.

Yesterday, Sunday, our busiest day of the week, was spent trying to contact over 120 people who were booked in for lunch, and explain our predicament.

When on average 21 pubs are going out of business every week, you need to be a glass half full optimist in the morning and resist the late night pessimism of the half empty glass with its deadly lure.

So here’s the good news. We’ve had our first award that recognises the quality of our food, having picked up a gong for “Best Food Pub” in the Wadworth annual “Best of the Best Awards”.

I’ve always believed that it would take us four years to get the reputation of this pub consistently back on track, and the arrival in September of our Head Chef, Martin Sheriff from The Boot at Barnards Gate, has most certainly given us a gear change in this direction.

His menus not only make for great reading and Instagramming, but also his flavours and tastes are already eliciting high quality praise, whether the customer is a foodie or good old pub grubber.

Pubs like this, situated a little off the beaten track, albeit only a country mile or two from the city centre, appear to succeed or fail for a host of different reasons.

But please don’t think of me as a Mr Grumpy landlord. It’s my passion, shared by our small team, to make this pub something very special: for our food, our welcome, with an outstanding ambience whatever the season.

Something worth going the extra mile for. So here are a few things to whet your appetite for the New Year. On Burns Night, we’ll be hosting our first monthly ‘Fine Dining at Fair Prices’ evenings - a chance for our chef team to give you something really special and for you to give us your thoughts too.

We’re also committed to more jazz evenings – starting with Manouche Etcetera, a jazz and gypsy swing band with a very fast growing local following, performing on January 20. On February 15, we’re thrilled that Jay Rayner will be visiting us, not in his capacity as a food critic, but as one of the Jay Rayner Quartet, with his much acclaimed and entertaining performance “A Night of Food and Agony”.

To run a pub you need perseverance, and that is inspired by your customers, telling you that what you are doing is great (and what you might do better) and the support of friends and family. I’m very lucky to have to have plenty of both just now.

So remember in Arthurian legend, the sighting of a white hart was a sign to Arthur and his knights that it was time to embark on a quest - it was considered the one animal that could never be caught so it came to symbolise humanity’s never-ending pursuit of knowledge and the unattainable.