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The University Boat Race

The University Boat Race held on the River Thames in London annually has become one of England’s premier annual sporting events. The race consists of two teams of rowers, one from the colleges of Oxford and the other from the colleges of Cambridge with a year’s bragging rights on offer as the prize to the winners. Fortunately, both sets of colleges have easy access to a river, Oxford the River Thames and Cambridge on the River Cam and so both can train enthusiastically for the yearly event.

Students from both cities can also take part in another water activity and that is punting at Oxford, Cambridge along with Stratford and Canterbury are the only places in the country where punting still takes place. Of these four venues, it is perhaps Cambridge which has become best known for its punts and more information can be found about Cambridge and its punting tours at

Although once popular throughout England, the above towns are now probably the only places where you can still see punts and so Cambridge, with its larger number of punts, has become popular as a tourist destination because of its punts. Punting is a peaceful and quiet way to slowly float along a river observing the beauty or buildings on the two river banks. In Cambridge it is possible to rent a punt on your own in which case you would have to do the punting yourself or, tourists can opt to take a punt tour where someone does the punting for them, allowing the tourists to sit back and enjoy the ride.

Punters on the punt tours also act as guides and so will often offer tourists a history of the different building they pass by and the history of the nine bridges which they pass under. At the height of the tourist season, part-time punters are often required and so the students from the town’s colleges that want to make an extra bit of money can do so by offering their services as punter/guide. Of course, though, any student wishing to earn some extra money this way, better know the history of Cambridge.

Of the nine bridges the tour passes beneath, one, the Magdalene Bridge, although rebuilt several times since, dates back to the beginning of the town of Cambridge itself. The Romans were well-known for building roads throughout Europe in order to make trading easier between different regions and this was the same in England. One road which the Romans built was to increase trade between London and areas to the north but in order to do so, they had to build a bridge across the River Cam. At that time, due to its strategic positioning, the bridge was known as the Great Bridge, and although its use may have changed and its name also, a bridge has stood on that same site ever since with the current Magdalene Bridge being made from cast iron in 1892. Although the other bridges have different histories, many are just as interesting.