The River Cam may not be well-known by name but it is certainly well-known by many and the reason for this is that it is on the River Cam at Cambridge where the now famous Cambridge punts lazily float along. The river at this point is slow moving and shallow, ideal for punting and so punts, although almost having disappeared in the rest of the country, still are prominent in the city. Although punts can still be found in the rivers at Oxford, Stratford and Canterbury; nowhere are they more famous or prolific than they are at Cambridge.
Cambridge punting has now become one of the last bastions for what once was a popular activity throughout all of England including the shallow waters of the Fens, north of Cambridge. Punting is not the only river activity which Cambridge is famous for though as it is the universities of Cambridge which are one of only two participants in the now famous University Boat Race held annually on the River Thames in London. This race has become more and more famous as years pass and today, thousands line the banks of the River Thames to watch whilst millions more watch the race on their TVs at home. The race although having become one of the country’s premier sporting events, only has as a prize, bragging rights for its universities for the year.
With the punts and the boat race being part of university life, all the students of the Cambridge universities build an affinity for the river during their studies and so the River Cam, although perhaps not a household name to everyone, is still well-known in certain circles all around the world, making it perhaps the least known famous river in the world.
Apart from the boat race exciting students from the universities, many of them also take an active part in the punting as they can become punters, or guides, for the punt tours and earn some extra money for their tuition fees. Even if they do not become professional, part-time punters, many of the students will at least take time for a punt along the river as it is perhaps one of the most relaxing experiences possible, affording them a peaceful relaxing break between classes.
Although the relaxation offered by a gentle punt down the river may not be known throughout the world, I similar experience, that of taking a gondola along the canals of Venice is similar and far more well-known for its relaxation. Punting can be compared to a gondola trip in Venice as both are powered along slow moving, shallow waters by means of a pole but there perhaps the similarities end as they are both very different in shape. The gondola of Venice is more oval shaped with points at the front and rear whilst the traditional punt has square corners at front and back, making it more oblong in shape. The punt also has a flat bottom which of course the gondola does not.