Punting

Punting is something which Cambridge in the UK is very famous for but what exactly is punting? Punting is an activity that is carried out on shallow waters and in the case of Cambridge those waters are the River Cam. Cambridge punting is not considered by those involved in the industry as being the same as taking a gondola in Venice but to outsiders there is little difference. A punt is a flat bottomed boat which is usually capable of taking passengers whilst one person “punts”.

To punt means for a person with a 15ft pole to move the punt by making the pole touch the bottom of the waters to propel the craft along. Although this does mean that the boat is powered by a person, punting has not yet become a sport and is doubtful that it ever will be. So to take what are known as punting tours, tourists can ether hire a punt and power it themselves or they can hire one complete with someone to punt and in those cases the punter will also act as a tourist guide, pointing out different places of interest as you pass them by on your journey down the river.

Although punting does occur in other parts of England, Cambridge is by far the best known place for it and it has become a tourist attraction just like other towns and cities across the country have their own attractions; the William Shakespeare theatre at Stratford upon Avon or the tower in Blackpool. In fact Cambridge is best known for its punting and of course its Universities, which along with its rival Oxford, are considered some of the best in the world, not just England.

Although today Cambridge is considered the heart for punting in the UK, it was in fact London, on the River Thames where punts were first used. Because punts have no keel and therefore have to be steered by way of the pole, they are maneuverable in shallow waters which made them ideal for use as platforms for the fishermen to use along the river. The punt only became a boat for pleasure purposes in around 1870 but once they were used for leisure, they became every popular and that popularity grew, especially in the University City of Cambridge.

The fens or shallow wetland to the north of Cambridge is ideal for punts to be work vessels and so punting all around Cambridge was at one time very popular although today, it is perhaps only Cambridge where punts abound. With the fame which punting in Cambridge has already attained, it is unlikely that punts will all but disappear in Cambridge as they have in so many other locations around the country, including the fens to the north, any time soon. Although not as famous for them, some places around the country do have some punts though and those places include Oxford, Stratford Canterbury. In the other locations, tourists that may be there may go punting but tourists go to Cambridge for the punting.