Our good friend and local mum Lenka and her family visited Oxford to try their hand at Oxford’s favourite pastime, punting! Here, Lenka gives us the lowdown of what to expect:
I have been to Oxford a few times, but never rented a punt as the river always seemed too busy, teeming with tourists. We decided to take advantage of quieter times and I booked a punt for Sunday morning at www.oxfordpunting.co.uk.
Oxford Punting offer Chauffeured punting hire, self-driven punts, rowing boats and pedalos. We decided to hire a punt for 5 people. My booking was confirmed and I was asked to pay on the day when returning the punt – therefore we could decide how long we want to stay on the river (£25 /hour).
I booked parking for the day through the JustPark App (£5.70/day – price from 2020) and on Sunday morning, we arrived at Oxford. Parking worked well, it was only a 16min walk to Magdalen Bridge Punt Station. Although our punt was booked for 10am, when we arrived at 9.40am, we were able to get the punt and off we went. My kids and I made ourself comfortable on the benches and my husband was given a 5m long quant pole to maneuver and push us through the Oxford waterways – it took him no time to get used to it and off we went.
The river was very peaceful and quiet as we were the first people there (I guess it would be slightly busier in the afternoons). Sadly, we didn’t realise that there was a duck food for sale for £0.50 (price from 2020) at the Boat hire – lots of local ducks and some swans came to say ‘Hi’ as we were quietly sliding past them. However, when they realised we have no food for them, they went in search of more organised visitors.
We followed a map that was given to us with the punt and spent the first 40min being nearly the only people on the river. It got slightly busier after an hour but it was still a very peaceful trip. We even managed to have a small picnic on the punt and all of us took turn to try to push the punt using the giant quant pole (not as easy at it looks).
After we returned the boat, we went to the Oxford Botanic Gardens just across the road from the Boat hire – their website recommends booking a ticket but we just popped in and it wasn’t busy, even though it was Sunday afternoon. Children under 16 are free, so it only cost us £10.90 for two adults tickets. It’s a small garden but with lots of benches and a small camper van, selling coffee and cakes, that was exactly what we needed.
Over all, it was a very relaxing visit and I would definitely recommend it this summer as a really fun activity that also allowed for social distancing.