Punting in Canterbury

Punting in Canterbury

[ Mar.2019 ] The name of the river running through Canterbury in the south of England is the River Stour.

It is a narrow river like a canal, and on the river they were offering a punting service for tourists.

The punt is a flat bottomed boat and it moves by pushing against the river bed with a long pole.

Punting is a popular activity in Cambridge, the famous university town, but they were doing it here in Canterbury, too.

Apparently, three companies are competing.

We chose the one called ‘Canterbury Punting Co.’, whose representative was inviting the passers-by on the High Street in the city.

Our punt was the authentic wooden one, but the other boat we passed was a plastic one, so we were happy choosing this one.

According to the leaflet, the fare was £12.50 for an adult to share a punt, but they gave us the concession price of £11(about €13 and $14.50).

I suspect they were giving everyone the concession price to make them feel better.

We moved from the High Street to the boarding place along the river and waited for our turn in a café.

Apparently, up to 12 people can be on board on one punt, but maybe because it was already late afternoon, the people with us was a family of three, so there were only 5 passengers.

I have been living in the UK for a long time, but this was my first time on a punt.

It is really flat and I could feel the water very close.

It moved very slowly.

The oarsman gave us a bit of information about the history here.

In the past, in Canterbury along this river, two monastic orders used to have bases.

One was the Franciscans on the south western side of the city and the other was the Dominican Order in the centre.

Franciscans are the monks, who are content with a poor but honest life and their habit did not have any colours.

When they arrived in England, they were so dirty that nobody believed that they were monks.

People tested them by letting them read Latin, which was the language only clergies could read in those days.

Because of their dirty habit, they were called Grey Friars.

On the other hand, the Dominicans were very rich and they were called Black Friars.

In the past, black was the second most expensive colour, next to purple, and the Dominicans were wearing black habits.

The building, which used to belong to Dominican Friars, is now the art and music department of the public school with a long history.

Our oarsman said “When this school was established, it was only for the poor boys. Because in those days, they thought the rich children were already clever so they did not need any education”.

The River Stour was very quiet during our trip, but in the past it flooded badly from time to time and there was a water gate to adjust the volume of water.

At one time, a mill and a pub were flooded badly, but he said “As you can see, only the pub survived”.

Apparently, people saved the pub, abandoning the mill.

Because the river was used for transportation, some of the old houses along it had doors facing the river.

One of them was a pizza chain now.

He said “We tried to form a business with them so that our customers could enjoy eating pizzas during the ride, but they were worried that the customers or their assistants would fall into the river, so it did not work”.

It is a good idea, though.

This company offers private punting on the same route as well as the haunted tour at night and the romantic tour going into the countryside with some food and drinks, too.