We visit The Kingston Arms first. This pub is a regular in ALE magazine, but strangely we haven't been here for years. The choice of beer is excellent, so nothing has changed here. There are dozens of games stacked up near the door, so we delve first into Buckaroo. David cannot harness his enthusiasm and no matter where he hangs his lasso, the donkey will not buck. Viv, drinking Brewer's Gold from Crouch Vale (4%), has less luck and cannot get her pickaxe to stay on at all. Meanwhile, Nicola and I test our skill with the noughts and crosses. Some pieces are missing and she is tempted (a la two Ronnies) to go to the bar and ask for some "oes". We soon become peckish. Nicola opts for a sausage and onion sandwich - there are 3 types of sausage. Viv is pleased to order her dream meal combination - soup followed by a cheese board. There are 7 cheeses to choose from. We of course each try another beer. I love Thornbridge beers and find that the Jaipur IPA (5.9%) is both sweet and sharp. The overlying theme in this pub is choice, but that does not mean that there is a lack of quality. Indeed in terms of quality this pub has not changed at all. The Kingston Arms is however in a constant state of flux, where new beers, sausages, even ice cream are tried and tested. The only criticism of this pub comes from the eagle-eyed Nicola. There are too many A4 laminates in the window - blocking the natural light. No doubt these reflect that so much is going on in this pub.

Next up is The Geldart, which was something of a run down back street pub when I last visited many years ago to watch an England game in the back room. How this pub has changed! There are 8 handpumps. I choose Caledonian Deuchars IPA (3.8%), one of my all time favourites which I don't often see in pubs these days. Viv's pint is the standout though - the Harviestoun Bitter and Twisted (4.2%) is packed with flavours of marmalade cake. The pub has fantastic walls covered with interesting curios and local art. There is even a proper juke box! On the food list is pancakes, which we must return for. We all agree that this pub is outstanding and can't wait to return for one of their regular live music slots.

We walk into town a little and aim for the Elm Tree. This Charles Wells/Banks and Taylor pub offers an ever wide choice of beers. Colchester Metropolis (3.9%), B&T Dark Mild (3.8%) are chosen, but again Viv's choice wins the vote. B&T Fruit Bat (4.5%) is stunning and like liquid fruit salad; it is the best beer of the day! We love the choice of reading matter with several copies of beer guides and beer books to browse. We are pleased to find a choice of Top Trumps. Nicola is undisputed queen of this game and once she gets hold of the Bugatti Veyron card we are swept aside. This pub has changed little since my last visit, yet there is something we all feel a little uneasy about. We feel that there is too much furniture and find it hard to sit down. We are surrounded by hundreds of photographs of regulars on the walls. We feel a bit claustrophobic! Never the less this is a fine pub, with fine beers.

Finally, we go the Panton Arms, an old stomping ground of David's. This pub is quite hidden away and approaching from town, we initially think that it is closed. Once we round the corner, we find quite an impressive outdoor area covered in glass high above. David is architecturally impressed with the splay door. This is a modern outlook and we like it. This is another pub that has moved with the times. The bar area is rather sparse, with little decoration, so, compared to the Elm Tree, the pub does lack some character. Elgood's Cambridge Bitter (3.8%) is available and it is zesty and crisp. Wharfebank's Golden Pursuit (4%) is certainly deep gold. We cannot find games, but the pistachio eating becomes competitive - Viv wins hands down. The evening food is great. We all opt for burgers, but in 4 different guises. I am upset that David's burger is rectangular. But I do have French Fries, whereas the others are chunky.

I'll keep the conclusion brief. All 4 of these pubs offer great choice and are all moving with the times. In many cases, a lot of money has been spent on these pubs, but they are thriving. We will return sooner this time.