Today on my Fit for Life series I want to introduce Steemit to an activity that I grew up with and that has shaped much of my identity and childhood. Until I was 14 I lived in Cambridge, UK and after that time I moved to Oxford, UK. As you may know, these are two very ancient and famous university cities in England and their universities also some of the oldest in the world. In fact, Oxford university is older than the Aztec empire!
Both cities are shrouded in traditions that reflect their long history. There are many similarities between the two, as well as some things that are purely unique to each city. Today I want to share with you a tradition that both Oxford and Cambridge both have, that is rare in any other place in the world - the tradition is called Punting.
Punting in Oxford and Cambridge
Punting is where you push a long, flat bottomed boat, by pushing it forwards with a long pole. This method of navigating water is used all over the world, but Oxford and Cambridge are the only places with these unique style punts. Around both cities you will find many different places to hire punts, with Oxford focusing more on self hire punts and Cambridge focusing more on guided punting tours.
Being encouraged to hire your own punt in Oxford is great fun and as a local, it's even funnier seeing tourists trying to punt without falling in! As a tourist who has never punted before, it's also great fun trying to learn how to do it so everyone wins. In Cambridge you'll be approached often in the street by people trying to sell you a punt tour - these are usually Cambridge students who do work on the punts during their summer holidays. During these tours they'll punt you down the river Camb themselves, so you don't have to worry about falling in, and will tell you about the sights to be seen along the river.
In the above two photos, you'll see Cambridge punts. The top photo is with me punting and the photo just above is a picture of multiple Cambridge punts pulled up to each other side by side, so you can see their shape properly. The Cambridge punt is a little different to the Oxford punt. On every single punt there is two ends - one with a long flat platform that you can see me standing on above, and the other end has no flat platform but is sloped with some slats on the floor.
In Cambridge, you always punt by standing on the long flat platform. In Oxford you always punt by standing on the sloped slats at the other end of the punt as you will see in the photo below. In both cases the person punting is standing on the back of the punt to 'push' it forwards. A couple of times I have seen people standing on the 'front' of the punt and they try to 'pull' it forward with their pole. In Oxford the flat platform is always moving forwards and in Cambridge the sloped slated area is always moving forwards.
When punting in Cambridge, you will spend much more time going through the city and in Oxford you'll spend more time going through the countryside. In both cases, the river is quite shallow to allow you to push with your pole to move your punt forwards. However, in both cases the bottom of the river changes so you must be prepared for your pole to sink a long way into the water - make sure you don't drop it!
The river bed is also often muddy which can cause the pole to get stuck. This is the most likely reason for people falling into the water, because they try and pull their pole out but it doesn't come out of the mud and that pulls them in! The key to removing your pole from the mud is to twist the pole before lifting which removes the suction.
Punting is great fun, and this unique style of punting only really exists in Oxford and Cambridge in England. There are some other small off-shoots of the tradition but these were most likely started by ex-Oxford/Cambridge students and residents. It is excellent exercise both for your upper body, lower body and of course, balance!
If you want to try a really interesting new activity, try out punting when you visit Oxford or Cambridge. Of course, if you take a tour you won't be active! So if you want the most fun and the most activity, hire your own punt. The worst that can happen is that you fall in and get a bit wet which is all part of the fun. I am lucky that I have been punting since I was a child so have yet to fall into the river!
Punting is great exercise and a great way to see the local city and area. You can take a picnic too and have some healthy food while punting or while pulled up on the bank of the river. Most importantly, have fun!
Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed, please follow my channel and upvote the post! I'd love to know if your city has any local traditions like this? Tell me about them in the comment section below :)
Yours in health,