Oxford and Cambridge, both in England, are known for having some of the best and most famous Universities in the world and that of course has led there to be great rivalry between them throughout their histories. As many people in the UK will know and perhaps people from elsewhere in the world will know that rivalry is not limited to academic activities though as the annual Oxford Verses Cambridge Boat Race is one of the premier sporting events every year in the UK with thousands lining the river Thames and millions watching on TV.
Both these University Cities are on rivers, Oxford on the River Thames and Cambridge on the River Cam and so both have very active University boating teams. Any visitor to the river at Oxford will see boat teams rowing in training up and down the river but on the river in Cambridge, the more common sight are the more leisurely punts slowly cruising on the waters. As the annual boat race only features the two teams, it always takes place on the neutral waters of the Thames in the nation’s capital London.
Punts like the ones which can be seen in Cambridge were first used in London as platforms for fishermen, eel fishing and other interests such as duck hunting but as the River Thames got busier their use as a business vessel became less useful. However, by that time they had become quite popular for leisure activities and so maintained their presence on various waters for quite some time and can still be seen today in Cambridge, Oxford, Stratford and Canterbury. Whilst people may opt to go punting whilst in the other cities though, many people go to Cambridge especially for the punting, making it quite a good tourist attraction for the city and it is also a popular activity among the students.
Although the less informed may consider a punt as being the same as a Venetian Gondola, they would be very much mistaken although they are now both considered leisure boats and both are propelled by the use of long poles, punts are oblong with square corners, are flat bottomed but do not have any other means of steering other than with the pole. Although powering the punt along using only the pole may seem fairly easy, to do it expertly, steering well can be a bit trickier.
Although the students and other locals may opt to hire a punt and punt themselves through the shallow waters, many of the tourists to Cambridge take the opportunity to hire a punt complete with punter so as to enjoy a more relaxed day. The professional punters will often on these Cambridge punt tours offer knowledge of the different buildings and structures you pass on the river bank as you gently cruise the slow running waters. The tourists, who visit the city solely to go punting, play such an important role to the city that the authorities make laws to try and maintain its popularity.