Welcome to John and Gillian Harris who took over at the Pear Tree Hildersham in February. They arrived with 15 years experience in the pub, hotel and catering trades. Whilst determined to retain the existing character of the pub, they are also making improvements including a new kitchen and the addition of letting rooms, plus tilting stillages to help maintain the pub's reputation for excellent Greene King ales. There is no music, no games machines, no pool and no television. Instead you'll have to make do with a "good atmosphere, good beer, good food and nice accommodation in a delightful setting."

The Rock, Cherry Hinton Road, Cambridge reopened in March after an extensive refit. The two-room layout has given way to a single u-shaped bar though the area to the right of the front entrance still has more of a "public" flavour with TV screens, gaming machines and pool table. In the former lounge, the raised areas have gone and patio doors now lead to a heated, covered patio. Everything has been very tastefully done though the end result is slightly anonymous. One individual touch is the large framed arty photos of bits of the city. Greene King IPA and Abbot on handpump alongside a guest which customers are invited to choose - but, presumably, not from beyond the Greene King list (Old Speckled Hen was the offering when we visited). Food is served until 10pm and the extensive menu has main meals at mostly between £5.95 and £6.35 plus no less than 18 different burger options.

Amy Boulton has taken over as landlady at the Green Man Trumpington where the real ale selection has expanded to three - Tim Taylor Landlord, Greene King IPA and Adnams Broadside. The other Mitchell and Butler outlet in our area, the Plough Fen Ditton, also has a new landlady, Sharon Turner, and has also increased its real ales to three - Landlord again plus Adnams Bitter and Greene King Abbot. Both pubs have launched new menus.

The Conservatory Papworth Everard now opens at 11am during the week rather than at 4pm.

Since January, father and son Richard and Paul Ellis have been in charge at the White Swan Conington. This handsome brick-built 18th century pub retains lots of character even though the interior has been opened out somewhat. Real ales are Greene King IPA and Abbot plus a changing guest (a nice drop of Hydes Jekyll's Gold when we called in). Good freshly cooked pub food is available every session except Sunday evening. If there's something you fancy which isn't on the menu but they've got the ingredients in the kitchen then they'll be happy to rustle it up for you. The Ellis family also own the Travellers Rest on the A10 at Chittering and run both the Alexandra Arms Cambridge and, since March, the Jolly Brewers Milton. In addition they're looking after the White Horse Barton on a temporary basis (Richard ran it for seven years earlier in his career).

[County Arms frontage] <- County Arms
We were pleased to catch up recently with our old friend Steve Ingram. He and his better half Cissy Lyn (who is the landlady and tenant) have been at the County Arms, Castle Hill, Cambridge for a year now. As with their previous pubs, the Sino Tap (now the Punter) and the Zebra, the County specialises in Sichuan cooking using authentic Chinese recipes though home-made pizzas and other more mainstream dishes are also served (up until 11pm every evening). On the real ale front, a splendid bank of five handpumps greets you, dispensing Everards Beacon, Tiger, Sunchaser and Original plus a changing guest (which was a fine drop of Burton Bridge Sovereign Gold when we called). The County occupies a sturdy 1930s building and some of the original wood-panelling survives in the front bar (though this was originally two rooms); there's a cosy area at the back as well.

The Carpenters Arms, Victoria Road, Cambridge is under temporary management whilst Punch Taverns seek new tenants and isn't currently selling real ale. Also up for let through Punch are the Duke of Argyle and Geldart in Cambridge, the White Horse Foxton, the Star Melbourn, the Rose and Crown Teversham (presently shut) and the Sun Waterbeach. Enterprise have the British Queen and Master Mariner in Cambridge up for grabs along with the Railway Tavern Great Shelford (where plans are in place "to create a traditional pub with a modern feel"), the Rose Stapleford, the Brewery Tap Waterbeach and the Greyhound Sawston. The Hopbine Cambridge is available from Admiral Taverns.

Meanwhile, the Greene King "to let" list just seems to get longer and longer. In early May, you could express an interest in the Barley Mow Histon, Carpenters Arms Great Wilbraham, Grapes Cambridge (where long-serving licensees Doug and Marion Robb are retiring), Kings Head Sawston, Old Crown Girton, Pemberton Arms Harston, Three Tuns Willingham, Waggon and Horses Linton, White Horse Barton and Zebra Cambridge.

Greene King's St Edmunds Ale is their newish brew which can be dispensed either northern style (with a creamy head) or southern (without). Some would say that it's equally bland either way but this isn't a beer designed for the ale connoisseur and if it gets some lager drinkers onto the first rung of the real ale ladder then fine. The Anchor Silver Street Cambridge has joined the Bakers, East Road in selling it.

Exciting developments at the Elm Tree, Orchard Street, Cambridge. Owners Charles Wells have let it to the B&T Brewery of Shefford, Bedfordshire. They in turn have installed as manager Rob Wain who previously ran the Hobgoblin, by far the best pub in Reading. When the pub reopened in early May, the most noticeable change was the magnificent array of ten handpumps on the bar. Three of these dispense Charles Wells beers, three B&T beers and the other four have constantly changing ales from small breweries (which Rob has complete freedom to choose). By the time you read this, the interior will have been redecorated and a start will have been made on covering the walls with breweriana and other items of interest. Food is to be introduced but will be restricted to plates of cheese and cold meats, stews and other simple "soak up the beer" style grub. There will be occasional live music but the regular jazz has moved across the road to the Cricketers. With the Free Press also within spitting distance, there are now three very different but excellent pubs close together in this area offering a crawl high in quality but easy on the feet.

On the evidence of a recent visit, the Panton Arms, Panton Street, Cambridge has been wrongly ignored by ALE. Whilst we supped a fine drop of Hyde's Jekyll's Gold, landlord Tom told us that he sells an awful lot of real ale, especially lighter-coloured ones. As a consequence he's ditching the Abbot so that the Greene King IPA is accompanied by three changing guests from the Greene King list.

A public inquiry was held on 7 May into the appeal by the owner of the White Horse West Wickham against the District Council's refusal to grant planning consent to convert the pub into the house. CAMRA joined many villagers in speaking against the appeal. We made the point that there are 22 villages in South Cambs with a smaller population than West Wickham but which support at least one pub. We also drew attention to other pubs claimed by their owners not to be viable but which are now thriving after change of use permission was denied - the Boot Dullingham, Dyke's End Reach, Black Horse Rampton and Poacher Elsworth. We now wait for the Inspector's decision.

Welcome to Angela Wilson who took over the Plough, Great Shelford in February; this is her first pub though she had worked at the Plough in the past. Angela is keen to make the pub more family-oriented and is opening at 9am on weekdays to establish a breakfast trade. Food is also served lunchtimes. Greene King IPA occupies one of the handpumps with Old Speckled Hen usually on the second, though others can appear. The Plough is a pleasant L-shaped pub with a pretty garden and petanque pitch.

[Fort St George frontage] <- Fort St George
The Fort St George on Midsummer Common Cambridge has reopened after a refit and the results are truly dismal. The biggest crime is the wrecking of the snug, formerly one of the most characterful pub rooms in the area with its old panelling, high-backed settle-benches and ring-the-bull. It's now just any old little room. The decor in the rest of the building shows not a jot of individuality or imagination, the whole enterprise giving off a strong corporate smell. The once wide choice of real ales has been reduced to (deep yawn) Greene King IPA and Abbott. Westons Cider has survived but the Perry hasn't. The food offering is exactly what you'd expect in a place like this. The pub has also lost its "in England" suffix, which distinguished it from the Fort St George in Madras after which it was named.