Punting in the UK

Punting in the UK today is not as popular as it once was and so today, it is probably only something you could do in Oxford, Cambridge, Stratford or Canterbury but there still are enough people interested in punting to make it a popular tourist attraction in Cambridge if nowhere else. UK punting in Cambridge is still in great demand and as well as tourists taking advantage of the relaxing past time, many of Cambridge’s university students do also.

Most students of Cambridge’s universities and Oxfords for that matter will have at one time or another experienced the relaxing benefits of slowing cruising down a river in a punt. Some of the students even take up part time employment as guides on the punts. As with the gondolas in Venice, the guide doubles up as the person that powers the boat by way of a 15’ pole and although it may seem easy, it is perhaps harder than first thought due to the pole also having to steer the boat as well as power it.

Punts were first used on the River Thames as work boats and they were particularly useful at that time due to them having flat bottoms which meant not only could they navigate very shallow waters but they could also carry large loads for their size. The punt’s usefulness as a leisure boat soon also became apparent and in the end it was punts as leisure boats that out lasted punts as work boats.

Despite often identified as being the same as the Venice gondolas, there are two major differences between them and those are that the gondola has pointed ends and is therefore more oval in shape and has a tapered bottom whilst the punt, has square corners and is oblong in shape with a flat bottom. However there are similarities like them both being used primarily as passenger boats and that they are both powered by someone using a 15’ pole.

Cambridge of course is also well-known for one other river activity and that is rowing with an annual race being not only the sporting highlight of the universities of Cambridge and Oxford but also one of the UKs premier sporting events. Every year thousands of people will go to the banks of the River Thames in London to see, as will millions of other people on their TVS, the universities of Oxford and Cambridge vying for a year’s bragging rights in a race along London’s section of the Thames.

Both Oxford and Cambridge are renowned as cities which are home to some of the world’s greatest universities and as such there is great rivalry between them and it is this annual race which determines which city gains bragging rights for the year. Students from both cities therefore gain a bond with their relevant rivers, the River Thames for Oxford students and the River Cam for Cambridge students. Of course though is made stronger with the memories of lazy afternoons spent on the river gliding along on a punt.