Punts are craft which is pushed through shallow waters by means of a pole, similar to how the gondolas of Venice are moved. Although both punts and gondolas may be powered in the same way, it is perhaps there where their similarities end. A punt has a flat bottom and has square corners, making it oblong in shape. A gondola, on the other hand, is more oval in shape as it has pointed ends like a canoe and does not have a flat bottom like a punt.
Punts were first introduced on the River Thames in London where they would assist fishermen to bring their catch ashore through the shallow waters by the river banks. Later they were used for all types of freight deliveries from larger boats to the shore and then as leisure craft, peacefully transporting passengers along the rivers and waterways of England. Although once a regular sight on many of England’s waterways, the punt has now been relegated to just a few locations, such as Canterbury, Stratford, Oxford, and Cambridge but it is Cambridge where they have maintained their popularity and perhaps even grown their popularity.
Many of the buildings on the river banks are part of one or other of the Cambridge colleges and even the bridges, or most of them at least, are part of one of the colleges and allow students to cross from one part to another on the other side of the river. A typical example of how the bridges are used by the colleges can be found with the Kitchen Bridge. This is a bridge that was built specifically to be able to have meals delivered to a new dining court which had been built on the opposite side of the river to the college’s kitchens. One of the bridges at least though can be dated back as far as Roman times when it was first built in order to continue a road from London in the south, to northern parts of the country. Although many of these bridges have been rebuilt over the years, they still stand in the same locations as their original predecessors.
Cambridge has a wealth of history and the most relaxing way to learn about some of that history is to take a relaxing punt tour along the River Cam which runs through the heart of the city and has become one of its biggest attractions.