unting on the Cam
Punting on the River Cam in a wood-built, flat-bottomed boat (which looks somewhat like a Venetian gondola) is a traditional pursuit of students and visitors to Cambridge. Downstream, you pass along the ivy-covered "backs" of the colleges, their lush gardens sweeping down to the Cam.
People sprawl along the banks of the Cam on a summer day to judge and tease you as you maneuver your punt with a pole about 4.5m (15 ft.) long. The river's floor is muddy, and many a student has lost his pole in the riverbed shaded by the willows. If your pole gets stuck, it's better to leave it sticking in the mud instead of risking a plunge into the river.
About 3km (2 miles) upriver lies Grantchester, immortalized by Rupert Brooke. Literary types flock to Grantchester, either by punting or by taking the path following the River Granta for less than an hour to Grantchester Meadows (the town lies about 1.6km/1 mile from the meadows). When the town clock stopped for repairs in 1985, its hands were left frozen "for all time" at 10 minutes to 3, in honor of Brooke's famed sonnet "The Soldier."
After so much activity, you're bound to get hungry or thirsty, so head to the Green Man, a 400-year-old inn named in honor of Robin Hood, where a crackling fire warms you in cold weather and summer features a back beer garden, leading off toward the river, where your punt is waiting to take you back to Cambridge.
Scudamore's Boatyards, Granta Place (tel. 01223/359750; www.scudamores.com), by the Anchor Pub, has been in business since 1910. Punts and rowboats rent for £14 to £20 per hour (maximum of six persons per punt). A £100 cash or credit card deposit is required. They are open year-round, although March through October is the high season.