Think Oxford. Think summer. Think Punting. After all, who could study, visit or even live in Oxford without trying their hand at bit of good old fashioned punting? And who knows whether they will be sublimely skilled in the art of punting and capable of naturally propelling their craft past all obstacles and streams of all depths, or resplendently inept and prone to taking the odd dip in the stream and incapable of keeping in time with the speed of the stream?
In modern times, the art of punting and punters have, it has to be said, become somewhat of a dying breed. Nevertheless, punts are still made in England, mainly to supply the popular tourist trade in Oxford and Cambridge. Originally built as cargo boats for angling, the punt is undoubtedly the perfect way to take a pleasure trip around Oxford on a warm summer’s day with the sun glistening off the tranquil waters of the River Cherwell. For those looking took take a more hands on approach to punting the best way to learn is to start out in a boat with a competent punter in order to watch him or her at work. Budding punters should though follow Jerome K. Jerome’s words of guidance in his witty novel on boating, Three Men in a Boat, where he proclaims “Punting is not as easy as it looks. As in rowing, you soon learn how to get along and handle the craft, but it takes long practice before you can do this with dignity and without getting the water all up your sleeve!”
So after a 5 minute lecture entitled “Teaching yourself Punting”, it’s time to pick a place to punt. Whether it’s in a traditional wooden or modern fibreglass punt, the best punting to be had in Oxford is on the Isis alongside Port Meadow to the west of the town. This particular stretch of the river is both shallow and gravelly (perfect punting conditions), has attractive scenery, and is well supplied with pubs, perfect for a Pimms o’clock. If you’re feeling truly inspired then a float along the Cherwell past the Botanic Gardens and along Christ Church meadow is the perfect way to take in the all the visual splendour that Oxford has to offer. Except in the near vicinity of Magdalen Bridge, all in all punting in Oxford is a quiet and truly rural experience.
Whether you’re keen on taking a back seat with a pimms in hand or taking punting to the edge, it’s a sure fire way enjoy the sights and sounds of Oxford in the summer. So the next time you’re by the river, why not go and have a punt or two!