History Archives - Cambridge River Tours

History

Cambridge Bridges

You could be forgiven for thinking that punting along the river Cam is just about seeing the Cambridge colleges and hearing stories about student antics. However, to do that would be to ignore the 9 (yes nine!) Cambridge bridges that cross the river, along the Backs. Honourable mention for Jesus Green footbridge and lock - the end of the middle river Admittedly, some of these bridges are more famous, more interesting, or just prettier than the others. We're going to tell you about all of them, from one end of the river to the other (ok, not the whole of the river Cam, just the middle river, which is the bit that we punt along). *Warning - may contain spoilers* - you'll almost certainly hear some of this information if you come on one of our Cambridge punt tours, so look away now if you don't want to know. Still here? Ok, settle in, this could be a long ride... (don't worry though, there are lots of pictures). Magdalene Bridge First up we have Magdalene (pronounced maudlin) bridge. This road bridge is at one end (the start as far as we are concerned) of the Backs, on Magdalene street and next to the college of the same name. Not the most exciting bridge to look at: Not so great any more? However, it is notable for: being on the site of (or very close to) the original crossing point over the river Cam on the Roman road that linked London (to the south) with the north and was part of an important trade route. The current, cast iron construction was built in 1892, designed by Arthur Browne, then rebuilt in 1982 [...]

Cambridge Bridges 2017-12-08T10:28:30+00:00

The Cambridge Backs

Have you heard of the Cambridge Backs? Even if you have, do you know what (or where) they are? Well, never fear, we are here to assist, entertain (we hope) and enlighten. Clare college on the left, is the oldest college along the Cambridge backs The Cambridge Backs (or just the Backs for short) are an area of central Cambridge, along the banks of the river Cam, occupied by some of the most famous and prestigious colleges that form Cambridge University. St John's - one of the largest and wealthiest of the Cambridge colleges, as viewed from the grounds of Trinity college, its neighbour and rival. The backs, built on land reclaimed from what was effectively the flood plains of the river Cam, are now home to some eye-catching, inspiring, wonderful and in some cases, also rather famous examples of Cambridge architecture. Punting is a unique and relaxing way to view the Cambridge backs What's in a name? The name, 'the Backs' came about because this area was referred to as the backs of the colleges in question. The river wends its way through the grounds of a number of these renowned educational establishments. However in many cases there are now college buildings on either bank of the river. Nonetheless, the name has stood the test of time. As have the views. Queens' college so called Mathematical bridge, at one end of the backs, Cambridge, joins the two sides of the college together Outstanding scenery, amazing tranquility Yes, it's a cliché but the backs have to be seen to be believed. They are an area of outstanding beauty and (often) tranquillity in the heart of the bustling [...]

The Cambridge Backs 2017-11-11T17:22:46+00:00

Our 2016 review

Wow, what a year 2016 was. In years to come, with the benefit of hindsight and water under the bridge (pun absolutely intended), I'm sure that we'll all look back on 2016 and laugh. Or cry. Or both... But for the time being, let's just look back on the year's highs and lows. Not necessarily in chronological order, not necessarily all to do with punting, and not all of them necessarily directly related to us. Think of this as a shorter, less funny, more Cambridgey version of Charlie Brooker's annual review... We were awarded a Trip Advisor certificate of excellence. Check it out: Some engineering students made a pedal powered punt We wrote our infamous What's in a name? blog post that quite a few people read and one person even commented on! William Shatner partook in a spot of punting - http://www.itv.com/news/anglia/update/2016-08-16/star-trek-star-swaps-the-enterprise-for-something-more-leisurely/ (not on one of our punts) We made a couple of videos that some people watched (not all of them related to us). There was a punting bake off - http://www.irishnews.com/news/northernirelandnews/2016/09/01/news/andrew-smyth-s-punt-at-bake-off-title-takes-him-through-to-the-next-round--676626/ - thanks to the creativity of a former Cambridge student We hit (over) 600 followers on both Facebook and Instagram and (nearly) 800 on Twitter More celebrity punting - http://www.mirror.co.uk/3am/celebrity-news/amanda-holden-helps-tamzin-outhwaite-9204767 We launched a page where you can find accommodation if you're planning a stay in or around Cambridge We sponsored a local football team We took loads of beautiful photos of Cambridge Cambridge City Council introduced a PSPO banning touting away from recognised punt stations in Cambridge. As we speak, unauthorised punting is still taking place  - who'd have guessed it? Brexit happened Donald Trump happened As for what 2017 has in store, your guess is possibly as [...]

Our 2016 review 2017-12-08T11:21:47+00:00

A brief history of punting. Part I

Trinity college punts moored under a tree If you've ever been punting before you'll have enjoyed one of the many narratives delivered by one of our talented punt chauffeurs. And if you've been punting more than once, you may have enjoyed an altogether different narrative, because such is the way with storytelling. History is a supple and fluid mistress, and in the hands of our chauffeurs she ebbs and flows with the tides of the Cam... (ok, technically the part of the river Cam we punt on isn't tidal any more but go with it). With this in mind, we thought it pertinent to bring you the definitive history of punting. Don't worry though, no spoilers here, we'll save the best river folklore for on board the punts... What is punting? A punt boat, more commonly known simply as a punt, is a square-ended boat that has a flat bottom with no keel. The normal method of propulsion is by using a 5m (16ft) long pole and literally pushing against the river bed. The pole is also used to steer, either as a tiller or rudder for gentle changes of direction, or by pushing off at an angle to the punt for more advanced manoeuvring. This method of propulsion is known as "punting". History of punting Punts were developed in medieval times to provide stable craft that could be used in areas of water too shallow for rowing conventional craft. One such area was the Fens, the marshy flatlands north of Cambridge, where punts were integral to local trades such as eel fishing, reed-cutting, fowling (hunting ducks, etc) and for transporting cargo, until their use died out in the late nineteenth century. The [...]

A brief history of punting. Part I 2017-12-08T14:35:33+00:00

What’s in a name?

Allow me to set the scene Back when we started out as independent punt operators, there were just two of us, each with our own boat, working together as a partnership. As time went by, we added more punts and, as a consequence, needed more people to work with us to help take the tours and find people to go on them. In those days, we jokingly referred to ourselves as 'Team Awesome' (yeah, I know - it might seem a bit cringe-worthy looking back on it but it seemed like a good idea at the time!). In those days, punting was still, largely, a summer activity, most operators ceased trading altogether during the winter, or ran a very limited service. It was during one of those winter breaks that I decided to build us a website to help promote our business and perhaps bring in some advance bookings. Whilst trying to find a suitable domain name (website address), I discovered that most of the ones with punting in Cambridge (or words to that effect) had already been taken. Looking back, had I been a little bit more imaginative, I might have been able to find something (e.g. our current website address www.puntcambridge.co.uk may have been available). However, I decided to take a different approach and got inspiration from our tout boards, which all had Cambridge River Tour written on them. Perfect, I thought. It's very 'Ronseal' it describes what we do and has the added advantage of making sense to people who have never actually heard of (at least in the context of Cambridge and boats) punting. I registered both the .co.uk and the .com domains and set about building a website (now on [...]

What’s in a name? 2016-10-21T09:43:42+00:00

Oliver Cromwell – the man who died twice?

On this day in 1661 Oliver Cromwell was executed. Whilst that in itself might not seem that remarkable, given his role in the English Civil War and the fact that Charles II was now on the throne, what made it more unusual was that he had died two years earlier. 12 years after the execution of Charles I, Cromwell was exhumed and subjected to a ritual (drawn and quartered - all the delightful things they used to like to do to people in those days), posthumous execution as a form of punishment (not sure how you're meant to punish someone who's already dead but we'll leave that one to the historians!). Following Cromwell's execution, his severed head was put on a spike outside Westminster Hall, as a warning to any other traitors. It remained there until 1685 when it became dislodged during a storm, after which it was passed amongst private collectors and museums until 1960, when it was finally laid to rest under the chapel of Sydney Sussex college. Cromwell had strong links to Cambridgeshire, hailing from Huntingdon originally, he studied at Sydney Sussex and is said to have garrisoned his troops for a while at King's College in Cambridge, resulting in the demolition of all but Clare College bridge (now the oldest bridge in Cambridge) in order to make it easier to defend the city. Clare bridge, Cambridge's oldest surviving bridge

Oliver Cromwell – the man who died twice? 2017-01-30T11:59:52+00:00