Ale Trail – A Bumble Through Beer Gardens

Whittlesford ChurchTicking off a few of the most southerly pubs on the Cambridge CAMRA Ale Trails, all with beer gardens, a twenty mile round trip following good cycle paths pretty much all of the way to Whittlesford and then roads through Duxford to Ickleton. Despite losing the cycle path as it goes through Stapleford, it was a pleasant route that even goes through the churchyard of St Mary and St Andrew’s at Whittlesford.

Bees In The Wall

Bees In The Wall

Built in 1851 as the Exhibition, the pub’s name was changed in 1950 when bees were discovered living in different sections of the walls as the pub was being redecorated. Initially the hives were actually cleared away and the walls sealed up, with 25lbs of honey extracted and used to make mead. However, a couple of years later in 1952, the bees returned and were allowed to remain. The bees still live here and can be seen going in and out of a hole high up on the outside of the building. Apparently upstairs in the private lounge, the landlord can view the nest through glass. They usually swarm once a year around May – on occasions they have left in autumn before returning in spring.

I have to say this pub has been one of the highlights of the Ale Trails for me. I enjoyed an excellent drop of Timothy Taylor Landlord and a friendly chat with Marie, who was happy to explain the history of the pub and the bees. The landlord Lawrie has been here for thirty years making him the second longest serving landlord in Cambridgeshire. A cosy two room pub with a large beer garden bordering the pub’s own wood! I look forward to visiting again soon, perhaps taking the short train journey from Cambridge to Whittlesford, followed by a 30 minute walk to the pub. Marie said they’d had more people passing through on the Ale Trail than in previous years. It was quiet when I visited during a weekday lunchtime, some companies that used to provide lunchtime trade have recently moved out of the area, so I hope more people discover this gem of a pub.

Tickell Arms, Whittlesford

Tickell Arms

Nearby, the Tickell Arms, formerly the Waggon and Horses from c.1810, is a pub and restaurant that was refurbished and reopend last year. There are usually four real ales on and on May 26th they’ll hold the pub’s first mini beer festival. I enjoyed a Milton Pegasus in the beer garden before cycling further south.

Ickleton Lion

Ickleton Lion

Furthest south of the pubs on the Ale Trails, Ickleton Lion, formerly the Red Lion, is a building thought to date back to the 1700s, with beamed walls and an inglenook fireplace. A pleasant Greene King pub busy with lunchtime diners, I had a rather insipid Old Golden Hen in the beer garden before retracing the route to Duxford.

Plough, Duxford

Plough Duxford

The Plough, a timber framed pub with a thatched roof and porch, also dates back to the 1700s. I liked this pub and had a decent Adnams bitter – also on were Holdens Golden Glow, Bombardier and two from Everards. By this time I was seeking shelter from the sun so only sat in the beer garden briefly.

Three Horseshoes, Stapleford

Three Horseshoes Stalpeford

Here since the early 1800s, the Three Horseshoes reopened in February, and has been steadily getting busier as word has spread. An unfussy pub, recently refurbished, serving a good range of real ales and bottled beers from around the world.

Route map:

Map of all the Ale Trail pubs (from @YvanSeth)

Sources:
Cambridge CAMRA
Mike Petty – Down Your Way
Roger Protz – Best Pubs in East Anglia
Ted Bruning – Cambridgeshire’s Best Pubs

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