Scudamore’s is the place you can hire a punt for an hour or two – or even a whole day. You will find Scudamore’s in several places in Cambridge, but the punting station at Mill Lane is the busiest one at the River Cam. When the weather is good, crowds of students and tourists throng the place! Some are very experienced and others definitely more doubtful first-timers who certainly could need a punting guide.
If you have no punting experience you may well need some instruction in the alluring discipline. A punting guide or an instructive punting lesson may well save you from falling in on your very first tour! You may therefore want to study Scudamore’s online punting guide before going: How to punt.
The River Cam flows through several Cambridge colleges’ Backs. The Backs refer to the backs of the colleges and are the rear grounds of King’s College, Clare College, Trinity Hall, Trinity College and St John’s College. Traditionally, the land here was used for cattle or for growing fruit.
The Cambridge colleges have their own college punts conveniently placed in the water right outside their college buildings at the Backs. They are always ready for a spontaneous punt tour on the idyllic River Cam. Especially, around the time of the traditional and recurring May Balls, it is a favoured activity to jump into the punt with strawberries and champagne in your hands.
On a fine, sunny day like today it is crowded around The Mill and the old restaurant and pub The Anchor. Here you can both get a traditional English pub lunch and a refreshing cold beer on the terrace adjacent to the river. It is swarming with students who fill the green areas along the River Cam and Granta Place. The voluminous willows, whose branches reach out as a roof over the river and provide adequate shade on the river banks, contribute to the light and relaxed atmosphere among the students sitting chatting on the grass.
From Scudamore’s and the riverside you have an excellent view of Darwin College which was founded as part of the old buildings Newnham Grange and the Old Granary previously belonging to Charles Darwin’s family.
When the weather is nice, it is, not surprisingly, immensely popular to go punting at the Backs, and it may well get extremely crowded during a Friday afternoon! Alternatively, you can punt a longer stretch of the River Cam (or River Granta) against the stream, in the other direction from Silver Street and Scudamore’s, towards the hamlet Grantchester. The outing to Grantchester passes by the oldest college, Peterhouse, and continues across the picturesque lowland areas Coe Fen and Sheep’s Green or Lammas Land with grazing cows.
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Grantchester is still a most picturesque hamlet with traditional, charming houses like the Old School and the stone church. When arriving by punt, you just leave the punt and the pole at the riverside, and head for the old tea garden.
The Orchard in Grantchester is the old tea garden where you sit in the classic, green deckchairs placed beneath the blossoming fruit trees. The wooden deckstairs and tables in the garden are popular on a sunny day where the Cambridge students and tourists flock to the garden for cream tea.
In 1897 a group of students asked Mrs. Stevenson if she could maybe serve a cup of tea to them in her orchard between the fruit trees. This was the beginning of a tradition among students in Cambridge. Weather permitting, they set out for Grantchester to enjoy a classic afternoon tea in the orchard.
The Cambridge students might walk across meadows, fences and stonewalls, or go by bike or punt a couple of hours against the stream on the River Cam / River Granta to get to The Orchard Tea Garden.
The poet Rupert Brooke from King’s College stayed in the Orchard House in 1909, and he became one of several famous people who frequented the place and had tea and scones with clotted cream in the garden. He immortalised afternoon tea in The Orchard with the lines: ’Stands the church at ten-to-three. And is there honey still for tea?’
Other personalities, out of a whole range of famous people who came regularly in Grantchester, count the writer Virginia Woolf, the economist Maynard Keynes, the philosopher Bertrand Russell, the atom physicist Ernest Rutherford and the genius and theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking.
The visitor list is extended all the time. It is continuously a highly popular tradition to punt to Grantchester by the River Cam, notably sometimes with strawberries and champagne. Nevertheless, the students and other visitors still come to The Orchard Tea Garden for scones and clotted cream, in accordance with the hundred-year-old tradition.
Centennial Hotel is located 5 minutes’ walk from Cambridge Rail Station opposite the beautiful Botanical Gardens. Rooms are elegantly decorated, and the hotel has a restaurant, bar and serves a full English breakfast.
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‘Punting on the Cam – Guide to the River Cam – Pub and Tea’
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Punting Guide to the River Cam – Scudamore’s, Pub and Tea:
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