IT’s all about the garden.

Sandwiched between two sections of the River Itchen, The Willow Tree is getting started with its busy summer season.

Just recently it’s had a new lick of paint and carpets exchanged for wooden floors, and it shows.

The place has a “mellow vibe” as landlord Julian Gibb describes it, and one peek around the garden shows why he’s so relaxed.

Sociable round benches extend to a beautiful back garden surrounded by flowers and the river, which is home to eels, fish, otters and the occasional swan.

“People come here to see them,” Mr Gibb said.

“It’s all about the garden.”

It all feels rustic and homely, like the pub’s been brought outside and blended with the one-off scenery.

To one side sits a massive barbecue, smoker and pizza oven, and apparently the pulled pork using local produce is a favourite among the punters.

Daily Echo:

Every weekend there are four guest ales, so naturally The Willow attracts real ale drinkers, as well as youngsters, families on Sundays for a roast dinner and the Friday night crowd.

“The people who drink here in summer are the type that would drink in the Black Boy in winter,” Mr Gibb added.

It’s clear he has established a connection with the regulars in his 18 months as landlord – during the brief interview several came over for a friendly chat.

One local man, only known as ‘Pete the printer’, lends Mr Gibb bonsai trees to ‘jazz up’ the garden over the weekends.

“I killed one once so he won’t let me look after them,” the landlord laughed.

Despite its connection to pub chain Greene King, the Willow has its own identity – something Mr Gibb said he is keen to see flourish.

Perhaps his roots to Winchester - he grew up in Sparsholt - is why the decor and ‘vibe’ is spot-on for the city.

It’s his first time working as a landlord after spending years on the ski slopes and teaching diving, and he said he is enjoying it.

“I like the live music every other Thursday, and the cooking,” he said.

“It’s good vibes when it’s busy.”

Watch yourself at night though - apparently The Willow is haunted by a snake ghost.

  • The Willow Tree, Durngate Terrace, Winchester, SO23 8QX.
  • Call 01962 877255, email