In his book The White Horse King, Benjamin Merkle describes the rich environment in which the young Alfred the Great grew up:
There were hunts, for which Alfred would have a particular fondness throughout his life. There were falconry, footraces, and horse races. There were wrestling, archery, sword fighting, and spear throwing. There were feasts with guests from afar – travelers, seafarers, experiences warriors, priests, traders, mercenaries, pagans, scholars, bishops, thieves, and princes. But most exciting of all, there were the poets. Alfred always had a particular fondness for the poetry of his native tongue. Late into the evenings, the Anglo-Saxon men would sit in the mead hall around a blazing fire, with their bellies full of roasted meat. The mead was poured out for each man from a gilded bull horn, and the enchanting thrumming of the scop on his lyre began.