Punting on the River Cherwell


Date of Publication: 31 August 2017

Although our day trips offer students the chance to savour famous British landmarks and the heritage they represent, it is our packed schedule of extra-curricular activities that truly epitomizes Oxford culture. With each day of their stay with us, students immerse themselves in classic Oxford pastimes. Our student helper Hugo provides a first-hand account of the challenges and triumphs of one of the foremost of these; Punting –

Punting is one of the most well-known aspects of Oxford’s array of entertainment, therefore no course seeking to emulate the famous university experience would be complete without it. Sadly, not many students, or staff members for that matter, have had punting as part of their education curriculum. As such, what should be a lovely and relaxing evening experience is more akin to a rugby scrum on water. Chuckling chaos ensues as soon as there are more than two boats in close proximity.

“Not to worry”, you might say, “punting is an easy sport to master”. Not so, says I. As peaceful as it may seem to the onlooker’s untrained eye, punting is one of the most illogical water-based sports to ever have been invented. Presented with a long piece of metal scaffolding and a tiny wooden oar about the size of an average kitchen utensil, an unfortunate punter is expected to master this art form as if it were second nature. Even if there are no other brave adventurers on the water around you, the looming trees over the river provide ample opportunity for calamity.

After many individual struggles, it was only when a brave student on my punt decided that Oxford had gotten it wrong, and decided to punt in reverse, that the whole experience became somewhat practical. Leading from the back of the punt determinedly forward into the waters, this student seemed to have conquered the treacherous Oxford seas. However, our boat was soon on course for a collision with the co-founder of Oxford Summer Courses – Harry Hoare. In slow motion, our punt raced towards impact. Harry, attempting to stand firm, collapsed forward into the boat with the crash. After taking out Oxford Summer Courses’ high command, our punt decided that it was time to call it an evening, and sheepishly returned to the dry land.

Student Highlight –

We were moving very well by now, the fastest and ahead of everyone else. Suddenly, my paddle got stuck in the water! We were going so fast that I couldn’t stop and pull it back, so there it stood as we raced off. We looked back and luckily flagged another group for their help – but when they came by us, they pushed us so that we started turning in the other direction! Luckily we were next to the edge of the river, so I stepped off and head back to triumphantly recover my paddle. I managed to get it out but everyone was reluctant to let me back on because I made us lose the race… Funniest punting moment!

Read more student experiences here: Student’s View: “Going to Oxford Summer Courses was the best decision I ever made”

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