Friday, August 23, 2013

Punting in Cambridge - with a Toddler!

Punting with a toddler was not something that was on the top of my to do list!

However, we had some Australian's visiting last week and spent the day in Cambridge with them. I am guessing that when in Cambridge, punting is pretty close to the top of the to do list with almost any foreign visitor. BB was keen on the idea of going on a boat too - so punting it was!

Punting along the river Cam,
with Kings College Chapel in the background

If you are planning on going, I would recommend doing your research first. There are a several companies offering punts for private hire and guided (chauffeured) tours. There doesn't seem to be a fixed price. A tout will greet you on the bridge and offer you a 'deal'. I had some idea that this might be the case having been approached by these guys before, however, when I wanted to research the best option for us by looking it up on the internet on my phone, or going into the Tourist Information Centre, our laid back Aussies suggested we just go to the river and see.

This approach did work just fine of course. We decided we wanted a chauffeured, guided tour. A guy came straight up to us almost as soon as we stepped onto the bridge at Silver Street, offered us a price, and wrote it on a ticket for us to take to the counter. We should have then gone to another company, to see how they would beat the deal, but we didn't. I paid £8 for BB and £12.50 for me, which seems extortionate - especially the £8 for a 2 year old - but hey - this is punting in Cambridge!



Thankfully he enjoyed it! If he had screamed in fear and wanted to get off straight away I would have been really hacked off - but of course he didn't. He loved it. Within a few minutes he wanted to hang over the side and dangle his hands in the water! He was quick to point out "duck tunnels" (essentially drains at the side of the river) and liked going under the bridges (train bridges and tunnels to him of course) and passing the other boats.

Yes it rained, but only lightly for a minute or two.
Umbrella's were provided.
  


For those who don't know, a punt is a flat bottomed boat, propelled with a pole. The guided tours take you for a short journey (about 45mins return) along the river Cam, through what is known as the Backs, past some of Cambridge University's colleges. It is quite an amazing vista, and a relaxing and enjoyable ride, even with a toddler! As for the guide, he was what you would expect from punt guide in Cambridge, an appropriately dressed and well spoken college boy. Ours knew a lot, but he spoke way too fast, in a posh but dreary monotone, so none of us really heard much of what he said; except when he talked about the library designed by Christopher Wren (apparently a freebie to boost his portfolio), just before he won the job of designing St Paul's Cathedral. It is one of the many stunning buildings along the river.

The library at Trinity College Cambridge - designed by Christopher Wren
It was nice too, to know that you were following in the path of so many of the great minds of history. One of our Aussies is an English Lit teacher, so this excited him greatly! All of that was lost on BB of course, but he definitely had his own fun. 


In summary, no I wouldn't suggest you plan on punting for your toddler's birthday party, but I would encourage you not to be scared of it as a an activity for a mixed-age group, as it is something that will be enjoyable for everyone in different ways. Do try and negotiate a better deal for your toddler than I did though!

The "Duck Tunnels" can be seen at the water's edge on the right!
Oh, and that's the Bridge of Sighs ahead!





3 comments:

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  2. Have happy memories of punting in Cambridge when I was a student there. Years later I took my husband and he fell in the river - just at the busy bit where everyone could see!

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  3. Oh no! Poor guy - did you ever take him back for a second go?

    ReplyDelete