The Bell Inn, Castle Hedingham and The Globe, Clare.

We did a quick tour by car of the Essex/Suffolk borders, to do some initial planning for a guided tour for a coach tour of visitors from Yorkshire for later in the year.

Having had an absolutely horrible January and February, the 1st March 2010 was a gloriously sunny day – although still quite chilly. We’d almost given up on spring showing any sign of appearing!

We drove out of Colchester through Eight Ash Green, and under the Chappel viaduct, past the East Anglian Railway Museum, where we’d been on Friday night for the 1st Chappel and Wakes Colne Winter Ale Festival. The effects of the extremely heavy rain over the weekend were clearly visible, with nearby rivers swollen and fields flooded.

It’s a lovely drive out through Halstead (watch out for the crinkle-crankle wall!) and Great Yeldham. The latter has a couple of pubs which will be investigated in due course. We stopped off at Castle Hedingham, only to find the castle closed for the day. Doh! All was not lost though, as we popped into The Bell Inn for a quick half pint. It’s an old pub, which has a big beer garden, and retains a lot of its original charm, and also serves beer straight from the barrel.

The character of the pub, polished wooden tables and bare floorboards, was set off nicely by a monocled gentleman sporting a handsome walrus moustache!

Next stop was Clare – a lovely village, with an impressive church and some unspoilt architecture.

Feeling a bit peckish, we were disappointed to find the deli/cafe full, and so headed up to try the Adnams ‘The Cock’, only to find that closed. (nb for an excellent resource on Suffolk pubs, go to Suffolk CAMRA). The Bell Inn was a few yards up the road and we headed in there to find it pub aimed much more at locals, but who can dish up an excellent ham, egg and chips. No monocles or walrus moustaches though!