The Cambridge pub closure misery goes on. The Unicorn, Cherry Hinton was shut and boarded up in June. Greene King say they have identified the pub as “no longer viable and we have decided to close it. We have not made any decisions as to its future.” However, with two other Greene King pubs, the Robin Hood and the Red Lion, close by, the chances are that the company will want to dispose of it as a non-pub rather than risk competition from another operator. With the Five Bells also shutting recently, Cherry Hinton has quickly lost half its pubs.

Things also look grim for the Grove on the Arbury Estate. GK have placed it with Savills who are marketing it as a “former public house” with a guide price of £350k. It could, they say, “be suitable for a variety of purposes, including restaurant use or other commercial development”. The pub was built as the Snowcat in 1959, the name commemorating the then recent Vivien Fuchs Antarctic expedition. It was unusual in having the “cellar” upstairs with beer delivered to the bar down glass tubes. When it was opened out into a one-bar pub (and renamed) about ten years ago it lost any character and has struggled since.

Also closed at the time of writing was the Zebra in Maids Causeway. GK say they are looking for new licensees though it doesn't appear in the Pubs to Let section of their website. Manager Royston Pederson had done a valiant job over the past year trying to turn the place around but for some reason the customers didn't come. It's one of those pubs you feel would do well as a free house or in the hands of a small brewery.

A big problem with these closures is that the City Council doesn't have planning policies which protect pubs. Both ourselves and Cambridge Past, Present and Future have made representations on this and the Council seem inclined to insert something into their revised Local Plan. Sadly, consultation on that doesn't begin until next February with adoption as far away as Spring 2014 – how many community pubs will have gone by then?

The Jolly Brewers, Milton, closed for a couple of years, has been bought by a consortium of eight local people who will reopen it in October as a freehouse, restaurant and bed & breakfast

Real ale sales are so buoyant at the Black Horse, Dry Drayton that a fourth handpump is being installed which will serve Adnams beers. Milton Pegasus is a constant with the other two pumps offering changing East Anglian beers. A recent visit found Gladiator Spelt Beer on sale. This is brewed for Glebe Farm Foods of Kings Ripton by the Tunnel Brewery in Nuneaton. Spelt is an ancient grain which Glebe Farm grow and malt for use in the beer; on draught it comes in at 4.2% and has a distinctive flavour that you'll either love or hate. The bottled version is stronger at 5.8% and available quite widely in our area.

The former Bun Shop on King Street, Cambridge has reopened as the Jolly Scholar. Licensees Gordon and Judi Williams also run the Jolly Sailor in Orford, Suffolk, a delightful pub which was a finalist in the Good Food Awards 2010. Fine dining is also a feature at the Jolly Scholar but Gordon insists that it's a pub first and foremost and the left-hand side in particular retains a pubby feel. The previous two-room layout has given way to open plan though the need to retain load-bearing walls where the toilets used to be means the space is broken up in the bar area. The best features of the previous decorative scheme, notably panelling in the right-hand portion, have been kept as has the “Oak Joke” boat suspended from the ceiling, whose sad story you can still read about. The overall look is light and spacious helped, in summer at least, by folding doors which open to the pavement. Upstairs are a wine/champagne bar and a terrace. Six real ales are currently on offer and these will change regularly – Gordon is keen to source unusual and local beers.

The Mitre, Bridge Street, Cambridge has reopened after a two-week refit. The last vestiges of the former Ale House look have been swept away with the carpeting of the stone-flagged floor in the down-steps area. This has also been extended with the right hand wall pushed back into the former kitchens. All tables in this section are set for food and full table service is available. The new décor throughout the pub is very stylish and attractive. Thankfully there are no changes on the real ale front with Adnams Broadside, St Austell Tribute and Sharps Doom Bar accompanied by five changing beers from small breweries. The pub is now branded very much as part of the Nicholson chain.

Over in Chesterton, the Dog & Pheasant has operated for some years mainly as the Saigon City Chinese restaurant but it does retain a small bar, though this doesn't sell real ale. The property's freehold has however been bought by a developer who wants to build lots of houses on the site. A local Councillor is leading the opposition to this and CAMRA will support him in trying to save what is still a community asset.

Several pubs in our area offer discounts to CAMRA members. The Pickerel and Kingston Arms Cambridge both take off 20p per pint on production of a membership card while members can get 10p off at the Black Bull Sawston and White Horse Barton. Any other licensees who would like to join the scheme, please contact the Editor.

A number of Punch Taverns pubs will soon be able to enjoy an extra degree of freedom in the real ales they can access. All the pubs concerned can already take advantage of the Finest Cask scheme which features a different range of guests each month. Now these selected pubs can get deliveries from SIBA (the Small Independent Brewers Association) of beers brewed within a 30 mile radius of their postcode. The lucky pubs are the Boot Histon, Waterman Cambridge, Six Bells Fulbourn, Geldart Cambridge, George Girton and Green Man Grantchester.

Talking of the Boot Histon, the Branch was very well looked after when we had a meeting there recently. Real ales for our enjoyment were Tim Taylor Landlord, Woodforde's Wherry, Adnams Lighthouse, Wells Bombardier, St Austell Tribute and Milton Dionysus.

If you thought Cambridge prices were bad.....Mr and Mrs Editor recently went for a gander at the magnificently restored St Pancras Renaissance Hotel and popped into its Booking Office Bar. The bill for two halves of (keg) Meantime beer came to £8.10 which included a compulsory 90p service charge. What's worse, the ale came in nasty little pewter jugs which didn't look like they held a half anyway.

The Hole in the Wall, Little Wilbraham has been taken on by Masterchef finalist Alex Rushmer together with his business partner Ben Maude. The pair intend running it as a traditional English inn with pint-supping in the tap room and snug along with a bar menu – though, of course, there is restaurant dining in the evening. Mark Stott is the bar manager and cellarman and he'll be offering three real ales, starting with Tim Taylor Landlord, Adnams Broadside and Woodforde's Sundew.

21 June saw the official presentation to the Cambridge Blue of their Pub of the Year certificate. By pure coincidence (not) that evening saw Jethro and Terri selling the 2000th different real ale since they took over – a special Cambridge Blue brew by Oakham Ales. In fact, not one but two certificates were presented as the Blue has gone on to be crowned all-Cambridgeshire Pub of the Year. It now competes with other County winners for the East Anglian title.

Congratulations to Philip and Kim of the White Horse Foxton for getting the Cask Marque award in recognition of the quality of their ales. Being a Punch pub this qualifies them for inclusion in the SIBA delivery scheme (see earlier) – they already take full advantage of the Finest Cask selection. Their first beer festival takes place on August Bank Holiday.

By the time you read this, the Hopbine in Fair Street, Cambridge should have reopened. As we reported last time, it has been bought by a lady from London and she has now let it to Hayley and Steve who also run the Portland Arms. The initial lease is for a year but if the venture succeeds then it should roll forward beyond that. The pub is completely free of tie and local ales and ciders will feature strongly. Hayley and Steve want the Hopbine to be a proper traditional pub (sadly rare in the city centre) and will also aim to capitalise on its excellent position to maximise trade during the day. As this is being written the pub is being thoroughly spruced up and it promises to be a great addition to the local pub and real ale scene. Full report in the next issue.

Hayley and Steve remain fully committed to the Portland and are planning some refurbishment work there. They've also been selected by Greene King, along with a few other high-performing cask ale pubs in the city, to stock regionally produced guest beers, starting with the excellent St Peter's Bitter from Suffolk.

At the time of writing, South Cambs DC had yet to consider the planning application to change the use of the Plough Shepreth to residential. In the meantime, the villagers are keeping up their campaign to save the pub. During the annual village fete in July they turned a redundant phone box into an alehouse, the Dog & Bone, for the night. A carpenter created a triangular-shaped “bar” which enabled a barman to stand inside the box and serve drinkers from a barrel under the bar. Well done to them and to the British Queen Meldreth for helping out.

The Boathouse in Chesterton Road, Cambridge has emerged well from its recent refit. The main bar is essentially one big room but sufficient vestiges of former wall remain to prevent “barn syndrome”. The snug area has survived though it seems even smaller and is now occupied by a cute semi-circular bench seat. A tastefully muted colour scheme prevails. The star feature though is still the terrace which descends to the Cam on seven different levels. Greene King IPA, Old Speckled Hen and Abbot plus two guests from the GK list occupy the pumps. Food is available 11am – 10pm every day and includes the usual GK managed house deals e.g. two meals for £9.95 Monday to Saturday and Curry and a Pint for £7.49 from 5pm Thursday. Live music Wednesday evening – jazz, funk, folk, blues, acoustic. Quiz night Monday and Comedy Club first Friday in the month.

Great news for the Elm Tree Cambridge – they scored the joint top rating (along with the fabulous Sheffield Tap, Sheffield) on the Beer in the Evening website, which has more than a million unique users every month. The pub is of course a regular in the Good Beer Guide and has a wonderful selection of real ales and bottled beers, especially Belgians.

Talking of the Sheffield Tap, the same chain, which concentrates on outlets at railway stations, also has Taps at Euston, London and (just opened) York – the rumour is that the Cambridge Tap is on its way.

We understand that the Carlton Arms, Carlton Way, Cambridge reopens on 30 July. A big welcome back to one of the city's best pubs which has been much missed since being fire damaged at Christmas time.

Late news comes through of yet another Cambridge pub closure albeit, we hope, a temporary one. The Haymakers Chesterton shut on 15 July after licensee Jo Tompkins decided she could no longer afford to keep it open (her other pub, the Corner House on Newmarket Road, is unaffected). Jo blamed lack of custom, high business rates and the amount of rent charged by owners Punch Taverns for this turn of events. For their part, Punch say that they're looking to reopen the pub as soon as possible. It is however in their Turnaround Division (which as the name suggests covers pubs whose fortunes need to be turned round – or else) and it may be that the property will be sold, hopefully as a pub.

On to our regular survey of the pubs in the area presently up for grabs Greene King seek new tenants for the Clarendon Arms Cambridge, the Dog & Duck and Waggon & Horses, both in Linton, the Queens Head Harston, the Red Lion Cherry Hinton and the Wheatsheaf Duxford. Enterprise have leases for sale at the Red Bull Newnham, the Rupert Brooke Grantchester and the Three Horseshoes Comberton. Admiral Taverns want someone to take on the Jolly Millers Cottenham. Christies are still trying to sell the King William IV Heydon (£845k), Pheasant Great Chishill (£649k) and the Blue Lion Fen Ditton (price on application)