Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Spring, Cambridge and Punting!

I had hoped that the rains had gone, but the grey sky isn't very convincing. Even Cambridge, away from the hills of the Peak District, nestled amongst flat fields and fens couldn't escape a downpour.

I was in cambridge visiting my oldest friend, Rhian, (we've know each other since we were 11) so it was lovely to visit her and have a catch up! She even bought some of my earrings! After a good catch up over dinner and drinks on Friday, and shopping (there's a fantastic stall at the market selling a huge range of tas and coffee's, a must visit every time I go) followed by a pub crawl, we managed to fit in some time for a picnic and punting, albeit in the rain.

When the punts are on the river (they're stored off the water over winter) the 'Cam' is never free of punts. Tourists can be found having a tour in extra wide tourist punts, propelled  along by experts - you have to take a test to get a job doing so apparently - or hire the standard sized punts for some river play!

Rhian and me overlooking the Cam
Students can be found with picnincs, pimms and lemonade, and some lucky ones can punt for free if their college has a punt. Rhian is one such student, as a member of Clare college while studying for a pHD in Chemistry, she can book the college punt, so we always take advantage when I visit.

First up punting was her boyfriend, Julian, who with his Rugby player muscles had no trouble taking us to Jesus Green, perfect for a picnic. Easily avoiding most other punts, and stearing uder the many bridges it was a relaxing ride, perfect pre-picnic. After a feast of baguette, various cheeses, meats, and olives, all washed down with shloer, Rhian took her turn at the back.

By this time it was raining, and she was punting against the current, but she still managed to avoid most other punts, and make our way beneath the bridges on our return journey. We made slow progress, (at one point we nearly stopped!) but then punting is hard work, as I was about to find out.

I have punted before, but at Oxford not cambridge, and there is a difference. The punts are slightly different shapes, it's essentialy the other way around, the river is quiter in Oxford (as the punt houses are more spread out) and it's shallower.

Anyway, I took the pole from Rhian, and braced myself for stepping onto the back of the punt. (There are no sides on the punting platform as it's level with the top of them). A little bit of a wobble, but thankfully no splash! Then it was down to the business of pushing the pole to the river bed and the punt along with it. I must admit I missed the river bed a couple of times, it was fairly deep, but got us moving in generally the right direction. I zig-zagged my way along, reqularly bumping the bank before steering away and then repeating the pattern (I definately punted to the right). We had a brush with some trees. twice. There are weeping willows along the bank and it's very easy to end up under them for novices like me. (It's quite fun watching people get caught under them!)  Eventually, after quite a bicep work out we had reached the side stream where the punts were kept, and managed to steer quite smoothly in, along with a little assistance. It was lucky the stream was to the right, that was definatley the way I keot trying to go!

After all the rain and work, we went back to Rhian's for a very welcome cup of tea, but all of that punting gave me inspiration for this keyring. What do you think?