This is one of the smallest pubs in our area and one of a handful which is in CAMRA's Regional Inventory of Pub Interiors of Historic Interest – it has changed relatively little since it was built in 1893. The original two bars survive (though the door between them has gone) and there are many old fixtures, including John himself. The tiny bar to the right of the entrance has old panelling with bench seating while the bar to the left, which is a step down, has a quarter-circle bar counter and bar back (both pre-war) and a big open fire. In this room you can also play the rare game of Ringing the Bull – see if you can swing the metal ring so as to land on the hook on the wall. The pub does now have a third room – a magnificent smoking shelter, or rather pavilion, in the back garden, with tables and chairs, heating and cricket-themed wall decorations. When I last visited on a November evening there were more people out there than in the pub.
John and Karolin put much of the Blue Ball's success down to their loyal bunch of regular customers. As in all the best pubs, they come from all walks of life but get on famously together and are quick to involve strangers in their often lively discussions. One of the regulars built the smoking pavilion in fact. The pub now has a thriving cricket team which played nine games last summer and has been given a pitch by Pembertons down by the Orchard Tea Rooms.
There is much that the pub doesn't do. No lager is sold at all, simply because with beer this good there's no demand for it. You'll also find no TV, no food, no fruit machine and no children. You can though listen to excellent live music on a Thursday evening.
The Blue Ball has unusual opening hours – 2pm – 11pm weekdays. This dates to when John was poorly a few years back and having to make regular hospital visits, leaving Karolin to hold the fort, which worked best with these hours. Fortunately John is fully well again but the arrangements have stuck. John has in fact been a licensee since 1966, first in South Wales before moving to Cambridge in 1974 where his first pub was the Rose & Crown (now the Punter). He also spent 15 years looking after Trinity Hall bar. This must make him the most experienced landlord in our area, now that David Short of the Queens Head, Newton is handing over the reins to his son. Long may he and Karolin continue, as gems like the Blue Ball are few and far between.