2009 was a disaster for Cambridge’s pub stock, with five closing permanently. In four cases (the Duke of Argyle, the Jubilee, the Hat and Feathers and the Penny Ferry) the pubs were bought so that their sites could be redeveloped for housing. Now, another looks like it could be going the same way. Property developers Chard Richardson have applied for planning consent to demolish the Fleur (formerly Fleur-de-Lys) in Humberstone Road to make way for student flats. Chard only bought the freehold of the pub from Punch Taverns last year and their real intentions for the property now seem clear. In recent years, the Fleur has been a gastro operation and before that it was a gay pub – and before that it was a thriving community local. Cambridge CAMRA has objected to the application on the grounds of loss of a potentially viable pub; it’s the only one that side of the river between Mitcham’s Corner and Chesterton and, in the right hands, could certainly do very well.

And the losses go on. Admiral Taverns sold the Cross Keys, Saxon Street last year to another set of developers. They advertised it as a free of tie public house but pointing out the scope for other uses. We gather that of the seven submitted bids some were from pub operators but, sadly, the highest was from someone who is converting it into a chinese restaurant. The Cross Keys was a smashing little split-level pub which did really well under a recent stewardship (the folk who painted it bright yellow). However financial problems from a previous business forced them to leave after which it was the familiar tale of temporary management and steady decline.

On a brighter note, the Bird in Hand Newmarket Road has reopened after a period of closure though the Greyhound Coldhams Lane remains shut.

Out at Milton, Punch have sold the freehold of the Jolly Brewers but we don’t yet know the intentions of the new regime (apparently a Cambridge club owner).

Welcome to the Laurie family who have taken on the George Babraham. Father Stewart will continue to run the Three Kings, Fornham All Saints near Bury while daughter Jo will manage the George.

The Devonshire Arms, Devonshire Road, transformed by Milton Brewery from one of the city’s worst pubs to one of its best, continues to pack the punters in with its fabulous selection of Milton and other ales. By the time you read this, the kitchen should be up and running with Craig from the Free Press in charge.

The County Arms, Castle Hill, Cambridge has reopened after its refurb. No major change has been made to the front section (thank goodness) other than a general refresh and installation of a wood-burning stove in one fireplace. The main alterations are at the back where the Gents has been repositioned, enabling direct access to a patio developed in the rear yard. This has both open and covered sections and will be a lovely place to sit once (if) the warm weather arrives. The mock-Tudor exterior looks terrific after repainting and new signage. Real ales continue as Everards Beacon, Tiger, Original and seasonal plus a changing guest (Rudgate Mild when we called). Good freshly-cooked food every session except Sunday evening.

Congrats to the Red Lion Hinxton for making it to the final of The Publican’s Freehouse of the Year awards.

Duncan Hall, who has been licensee at the Monkfield Arms Cambourne for just over a year now, tells us that real ale sales have grown by 72% in that time. The pub always has four or five ales from the Marstons stable which includes Jennings, Ringwood and Wychwood breweries as well as Marstons itself. It was good to find Ushers Foundation Ale on a recent visit – a faithful re-creation of a fondly-remembered beer from the 1980s.

The Queens Head, Fowlmere now doubles up as the village post office, offering services between 10am and Noon each weekday – the actual post office closed last year. Landlord Alan Clasby hopes that customers might stay for lunch or have something to drink, thus boosting trade.

We’re still waiting for the verdict on our submission to English Heritage to have the Portland Arms Cambridge made a listed building. In the meantime though the City Council has designated it a Building of Local Interest. Whilst this does not afford the same degree of protection as statutory listing it does mean, according to the Council’s website, that “existing powers will be used to preserve these buildings when considering applications for planning permission”.

The bar of the Hotel Du Vin on Trumpington Street Cambridge has a superb selection of bottled beers. There can be up to 80 different Belgians including rarities like Blezeloise, Achel, Brugse and Maredsous plus a fine choice of Saisons. There’s also some classy Americans such as Goose Island, Liberty and Sierra Nevada and bottles from local breweries as well – though bar manager Dave says these tend to sell out very quickly. Prices are generally between £4 and £6 a bottle.

At the long-closed Prince Albert, Stow-cum-Quy building work is well under way though what will emerge as a consequence remains to be seen.

The Three Blackbirds, Wood Ditton (Punch Taverns) is currently closed, with the freehold on offer via Everard Cole at £325k. The nearby village of Kirtling is also pub-less at the moment with the Red Lion shut and bearing a Cheffins sign saying “Freehold Public House with Building Plot For Sale by Auction”.

This leads us on to our catalogue of other pubs presently on the market. Greene King seek tenants for the Bakers Arms Fulbourn, Bell Balsham, Clarendon Arms Cambridge, Hop Bind Cottenham, Pemberton Arms Harston, Tree Stapleford, Wheatsheaf Duxford and White Horse Barton. The Punch list features the Bun Shop Cambridge, Queen Edith Cambridge and Poacher Elsworth whilst Enterprise are still looking to offload the Brewery Tap Waterbeach and Greyhound Sawston. Christies are selling The King William IV Heydon, Blue Lion Fen Ditton and Plough Shepreth. Fleurets have just the Rosemary Branch Cherry Hinton up for grabs. Everard Cole will sell you the freehold of the Chequers Cottenham for £250k and also offer the Star Melbourn on a free of tie lease.

Lunchtimes at the Elm Tree Cambridge now feature not just the usual fabulous selection of ales but food to soak it up with as well. Available until 4pm are Ploughwoman’s Lunch (cheese, pepperoni, soft bread, olives, pickles and various substances for dipping) or Sharing Platters (cheese and sausage with mustard, pickles and horseradish sauce). The Belgian beer selection is getting a refresh with lots of new/unusual brews coming on board.

Barry Fagg has left the Clarendon Arms Cambridge. We’re very sorry to see him go as he must have been the city’s longest-serving landlord in a single pub and he always sold excellent ale. The Clarry is closed at the time of writing but we expect it to be open again by the time you read this.

Some further news from the east of our branch area, courtesy of our man in the orient, Carl Woolf.

Pear Tree, Hildersham - awarded a 4-star rating by Enjoy England.com.

Crown, Linton - Elgoods Cambridge Bitter has replaced GK IPA as the house bitter, sold at just £2 per pint during Happy Hour, 5.30-6.30.

Dykes End, Reach - now open all day Sat and Sun for drinks - usually Adnams Bitter, Wherry, Dykes End homebrew and a guest.

White Swan, Quy - Snowdrop week at Anglesea Abbey provided a welcome boost to trade. Thai-green chicken curry has usurped Steak’n’ale Pie as the menu leader. Currently serving Adnams Bitter, Tribute and Wherry.

Red Lion, Swaffham Prior - future of Dark Mild assured now that Batemans have made it available in pins. Landlord Ian Cleverly expects a cask marque achievement in the near future, currently serving four of the Batemans range plus a guest, plus the Batemans real bottled beer range. Chef Martin is producing speciality pies for the menu, most dishes priced around £7.

Black Bull, Balsham - has a refurbished cellar. Regularly features beers from Buntingford and Bartrams. Beer festival 9, 10, 11 July with Hog Roast and music - see next issue for details.

Chequers, Pampisford - pie and a pint special night on Tuesdays. Already has a cask marque. Accessible by a number 7 bus.

Chesnut Tree, West Wratting - Easter Beer Festival, same basis as that started by Dan Heath the previous landlord. 10 beers.

The race is on......both The Lost Sock, previously the Prince Albert, at Quy and The Carpenters Arms, Great Wilbraham, are looking to open their restaurants at the end of May. In the meantime, the Carpenters is open as a pub serving beers from Buntingford, Moonshine and GK IPA.