Driving a punt is much more difficult than it might first appear. The purpose of this months blog is to describe good punting technique. If you fancy learning from a professional, why not book one of our private tours and use it as a lesson.
To start the punt, push off the river bed using your punt pole or quant. You may wish to twist it after, to stop it getting stuck. Altering the direction to which you push will affect your direction, you may correct this mid push by bringing the pole closer or further from your body or by stepping sideways on the punts deck.
After taking each stroke allow the pole to drag behind the boat. You can use it to steers like a rudder, however you should keep this to a minimum because it will slow you down and waste energy.
Significant changes in direction can be achieved by pointing the pole sideways when you push. Likewise and emergency stop can be achieved by pointing the pole forwards, but be careful because this will also turn you sideways.
Make sure you bring a paddle with you, in case you lose your pole. Make sure that you don’t keep hold of a pole which becomes lodged behind a tree, otherwise you may find yourself taking a swim in the drink.
When traveling in higher flow you will need to adjust your manoeuvres so that you punt relative to the water, which is moving and not the river bed which is still. This means that if you are traveling the same speed as the river, then you have no control of your punt. You gain control by moving up or downstream relative to the flow, and don’t forget that moving up stream you may actually still be traveling downstream relative to the bank and river bed. You will also need to be aware of eddies which form behind fixed obstacles in the river, these cause water to flow at a different rate and sometimes in the opposite direction. Eddies can often be observed with a difference in water texture.
Cambridge University was founded in 1209, over 800 years ago. It is in part, the establishments longevity which drives some of its myths and has cemented in traditions still adhered to this day.
Tour guides covering the University and The College Backs have always recounted stories from clock tower construction races to cars suspended from The Bridge of Sighs. One of the more famous stories told concerns the Mathematical Bridge. While many different versions have been heard, the story of The Mathematical Bridge at Queens College is told roughly as follows. Back in 1749, Isaac Newton designed the Bridge using a mathematical principle he had discovered, known as tangent and radial trussing. The design was so clever that placement of the wooden beams it was made of meant they were load bearing and required no nuts or bolts to join them. A few years later a few drunk students decided to test Newton’s design and took the bridge apart to see if there were concealed nuts and bolts. Of course, Newton had not cheated, but the students were unable to reconstruct the bridge and had to resort to using nuts and bolts to keep it together when they eventually rebuilt it. Sadly, the story is just that, a story. Isaac Newton passed away in 1727, 22 years before the bridge was built and the bridge has always used dowels or bolts to connect the wood. The story does serve to keep locals and tourists on their toes though, as it has been repeated so often it’s frequently regarded as truth!
Trinity College in Cambridge, as the largest and wealthiest of the colleges, enjoys its share of myth and tradition as well. Situated on The Backs of the River Cam there are wild stories of the wealth of the college told by tour guides and stories of student pranks, which have become themselves a tradition. Trinity’s founder King Henry VIII has a statue of himself at the front of the college, holding a sceptre. Some time ago, this sceptre was stolen and replaced with a wooden chair leg as a prank. To this day the college has not removed the chair leg and replaced the sceptre. Trinity seem mildly tolerant of traditions in this sense. They also allow a wooden carving of a mallard to be kept in the beams of The Great Hall where dinner is held. Periodically this Mallard is moved to a different beam, a feat held in significant regard. Not only are the beams high up and dangerous to climb, but the college also restricts access to the hall and only permits students entry at meal times. Still, rather than remove the mallard, Trinity allow the continuation of this tradition.
Not all activities receive The University’s blessing however. The tradition of night-climbing in Cambridge is one which the colleges most definitely frown on. Scaling famous landmarks from King’s College Chapel to The New Court of St John’s, night-climbing has been around for about 150 years. Done under cover of darkness students ascend the gothic structures and sometimes leave trophies at the top as proof of successful summit. Night-climbing makes frequent appearances in tours of the College Backs with many of the colleges on the river having played host to some form of climber in their history. To find out more about The Mallard, The Night Climbers, and how The Mathematical Bridge was really built, join us on a tour!
May has been a hot month, and extremely busy on the punts. We were lucky enough to have been selected by Jannes to organise an engagement to his girlfriend Laura. They had come over to England for the holiday of a lifetime, and whilst here Jannes planned to propose to Laura by punt.
We planned the proposal at 6.30pm after the river had become less busy, so that it would be as private as possible. The night before myself and our photographer Chris Radburn went for a trial run, to plan the best photo’s for that time of day. On the day of the proposal Chris posed as a self drive punt, and only revealed his camera, when Jannes got down on one knee. After a few minutes of tears, and smooching a large group of student bystanders formed, both on the bridge of sighs and in punts close by. There was a cheer of congratulations from everyone. Jannes played a video documenting their relationship so far and in response his fiancée laughed and cried with joy.
To make the occasion particularly memorable and special we ordered finger sandwiches and strawberries from Bridges Café. These were presented in a traditional wicker picnic basket. Jannes helped select a bottle of Champagne from the Cambridge Wine merchants, and they lent us an ice bucket and some elegant wine glasses.
Below are some pictures of the evening. With some careful planning, we were able to get some really great shots.
A new season once again rolls around the corner and we here at Scholars Punting Company are excited to begin the season in full swing. We’ve got a number of new goings on and a number of changes to tell you about which we hope will keep our loyal customers interested.
Winter is now over for us here on Quayside and that means we have fully refurbished, repaired and cleaned our fleet of punts at our specialised workshop in the Cambridgeshire countryside, ready for you guys to jump on a tour of the historic College Backs with us. Alongside repairing any wear and tear our dedicated carpentry team have been busy building a number of new punts to add to our fleet, alongside one extra special project!
Spring has sprung here in Cambridge and we are almost into Summer, with students at Cambridge University preparing for the gruelling end of year exams. For those of us here at Scholars Punt Company we welcome in the new summer season with a brand new management structure, delivering quality service with a customer focus at an exceptional price. Our new team will be on quayside every day from 10:00 until 18:00 (British Summer weather permitting) with a streamlined new “check in” system for e-tickets (shared and private tours available through www.scholarspuntingcambridge.co.uk) and a management team with over 10 years punting experience between them on hand to answer any questions.
In keeping with the British Spring and Summer seasons, awash with vibrant colours and new life, we here at Scholars Punting Company have been busy bringing our own new colours to life. The carpentry team have built us a brand new desk for you to come visit us at on Quayside in Cambridge. It’s not too hard to spot it in a crowd, our new desk is a scaled down punt, mounted on top of a bike. It couldn’t be more quintessentially Cambridge!
In case you’re too impatient to wait until your tour to get a look at our awesome new amphibious (don’t test it!) desk, we’ve added a picture of it to this blog post, which will give you an idea of what to look for if you decide to simply rock up and get a ticket from us on the day!
We look forward to seeing you in the sun!
All at Scholars Punting Company
Scholars punting co has been revamped!