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Secret Drinker heads to The Affleck Arms in Dalham, near Newmarket



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Welcome to the latest in our series of pub reviews by SuffolkNews' own Secret Drinker, who will make their way round the county's watering holes and give you their honest opinion.

Something told me that this was going to be a good pub when I saw the self-serve bar area in the garden.

As someone who I got chatting to outside said, The Affleck Arms in Dalham, near Newmarket, can only be described as a traditional 1980s boozer.

But that is the charm of it. They don't try to be any more than what they already are: a countryside pub for locals at the heart of an idyllic village.

On a Friday evening, the driveway separating the pub from the river is supposedly packed with people
On a Friday evening, the driveway separating the pub from the river is supposedly packed with people

I had heard about how good The Affleck Arms was and knew I had to pay a visit. You wouldn't find yourself in Dalham, and I don't mean this in a disrespectful way, for any other reason other than the pub.

The freehouse sits proudly next to the stream that runs through the middle of the village, which has a population of a little over 200.

We parked round the back of the garden and I instantly knew I was going to enjoy my time here. If I had a token for the self-service bar in the garden, I would have stopped there and then and poured myself a pint.

You have to be incredibly trusting in your punters to have a self-serve bar area
You have to be incredibly trusting in your punters to have a self-serve bar area
The Affleck Arms is not a modern pub, but that is what made it even more charming
The Affleck Arms is not a modern pub, but that is what made it even more charming

Tokens could only be bought inside, but on various deals. Ten pints for £30 and the extra trust in your punters gave off an excellent impression to start.

Inside, the pub felt old fashioned, but nothing like you wouldn't expect from a rural country pub. The bar still had gorgeous low beams, making it difficult for anyone above 6ft without ducking and diving.

The beams, though, were not a problem for the lady behind the bar, who I believe was named Jackie.

You can't get more countryside than a fireplace that looks like this
You can't get more countryside than a fireplace that looks like this

Diminutive in stature, Jackie was full of character and the life and soul of the pub. She made everyone feel at home.

Every pint was £3.50, and I don't think I could have been happier in the spring sunshine.

After our pints of Aspall and Greene King's 4.5 per cent Icebreaker Pale Ale were poured, we took to the front of the pub, where benches were laid out by the stream.

Smooth on the tongue, Icebreaker Pale Ale is my new favourite pint
Smooth on the tongue, Icebreaker Pale Ale is my new favourite pint
There was a wide range of lager on tap, which received plenty of praise from punters
There was a wide range of lager on tap, which received plenty of praise from punters

In the tranquil surroundings of a quiet village in West Suffolk, the conversation started to buzz as the pub got busier. Conversation focused on the recent Guineas and horse racing, as most people had an affiliation to the sport in one way or another.

What really piqued my interest though was the picnic two tables down had brought along with them. The pub didn't do food, but I knew these people were taking life seriously when they pulled out a chopping board to cut their baguette.

Conversation ebbed and flowed between the people around us, as Jackie subsequently helped herself to the picnic to give to the table's dog.

The toilets kept in fashion with the place needing a bit of upkeep, but that tallied with it being such a down-to-earth place.

You could only admire the tranquillity of Dalham in the spring sunshine
You could only admire the tranquillity of Dalham in the spring sunshine

Even on what was touted as a quiet day, there were few seats to be had and there were plenty of people there to keep Jackie busy.

Although the pub didn't do food, there was a food van that visited on some evenings. A scour through their menu suggests The Affleck Arms will definitely be worth a re-visit soon.

I'm not the smallest person in the world, so getting through the front door was a tight squeeze
I'm not the smallest person in the world, so getting through the front door was a tight squeeze

The scores (stars out of five):

Decor: It's charming and I don't think it will ever change. Low beams, fireplaces and dark corridors were a contrast to the peacefulness of Dalham, but everyone seemed to love it. ****

Drink: Smooth and crisp on the tongue, Icebreaker Pale Ale might be my new favourite pint. ****

Price: Even writing this now, I can't get my head around a flat rate of £3.50 per pint. It's a pub-goer's paradise, and clearly a successful business model that attracts customers from near and far. *****

I can see why the Dalham, and the pub, is a popular place to venture to
I can see why the Dalham, and the pub, is a popular place to venture to

Food: Sharing bags of crisps were on offer, but it would be unfair to comment or give a star when I didn't get to sample much more. The food van from the previous night was getting rave reviews.

Staff: Jackie seemingly knew everyone around the main bar and kept their glasses topped up. She was a hit with me and my companion. ****