Punting, although once popular throughout the UK, is now limited to mainly Cambridge and one or two other places in the country. Although Cambridge punting has been likened to Gondoliers of Venice, there are a couple of very distinct differences, most obviously in the shapes of the two different craft. The Cambridge punt has square corners and so is oblong in shape whilst the Gondolier of Venice comes to a point at the front and rear, making has a pointed oval shape. They are however both propelled by manpower with the aid of a long pole, usually about 15’ in length which enables them to touch the bottom of the shallow waters and move the craft along.
Although at first glance punting may look easy as you just move the craft along by touching the bottom of the water and propelling yourself, however, when you consider that the pole is also used as the only steering mechanism, the task becomes more difficult. This does not, however, stop many first time punters to have a go, with differing results although, for those that are more faint-hearted, punts can be hired complete with the punter.
As a leisure craft, a punt is perhaps ideal for the shallow, slow-flowing waters such as those of the River Cam at Cambridge. They allow visitors to the city to slowly meander down the river, looking at the sights along the river bank and, if punted by a professional, hear the history of many of the different buildings visible on the river bank.
Cambridge of course, along with Oxford, are two very well-known and well regarded University Cities, known throughout the world for being centers of excellence in education. Any students of these great universities, especially Cambridge, will, therefore, be well versed in punting with many of them having spent a quiet weekend either punting for fun or as professionals working on a part-time basis, helping to pay their way through to their final exams.
These two great University Cities are both perhaps better known for another type of river transport as it is these two cities that battle for the University Boat Race title each year, along with the River Thames in London. This is a race which takes place every year between the two University cities and has become one of the UK’s premier annual sporting events with millions watching on TV across the country and thousands spectating from the banks of the river. The prize being bragging rights for that year.