Canoe Days Out

Cambridgeshire - River Cam - Cambridge to the Backs of Cambridge (&return)

This page was submitted by Colin Southward (E-mail this submitter)
How to get there - From junction 12 of the M11 take the Barton Road north-east towards Cambridge. After 2 miles the road turn sharp left but you should carry straight on into the Lammas Land car park.

For those with SatNav the nearest postcode is CB3 9JY.

Get a map with driving directions to start (enter the postcode of your starting point at A)

Suggested Launch Site - Park at the car park at the Lammas Lands car park off Barton Road. This opens late in the morning through the week, but early at weekends. I did this run on a Sunday and parked at 9.30 a.m. and it was quite empty. By 10.30 a.m. it was nearly full. Launch over the bank into a small branch of the main river.

General Description - This is a short run (this journey is about 5 miles and takes about 2 hours) with a good finish through the Backs of Cambridge, dodging the punts for fun. No car ferry is necessary as it is an out and back trip.

You start south on a small branch of the main river for about 50 meters, then turn right and head upstream. By setting off early you will miss the first of the punts and the water will be clear as the poles will not have stirred up the mud. Follow the river upstream until it splits in two. You can go right, to the old mill at Grantchester, where you can get out and stretch your legs.

If you take the left hand branch, you can canoe for about another half mile, to Byron's Bridge. At the weir, it is possible to portage and go onto the upper Cam.

Return to the car park for lunch or another break. The river will now have the day trippers in punts or hire canoes. Some in control, some worth avoiding and on a hot day, everyone sweating as they struggle to gain some semblance of control.

After lunch, head back onto the main river and turn left. You are immediately into Cambridge. After nearly half a mile, you come to Silver St and Mill Pond. You have to portage on the left. There are some rollers for pulling your boat up and down. These can be shot if there is enough water in the bottom part of the river. I had to fight my way past punts being pulled up and down.

You are now on the main tourist part of the river. If you want a free commentary, follow the big punts with up to 10 passengers. These usually have a student giving a running commentary on the bridges and colleges that you go past. Kings College is the most obvious. Some bridges are copies of others, such as the Bridge of Sighs.

It is good fun and exercises your turning ability dodging punts on this part of the river. Eventually you go under an iron bridge, first built in 1823 and there is the new Quayside with attendant shops and eateries. Very quickly, you come to Jesus Lock. Get out on the right, next to the ice cream shop.

You can portage here and continue down the river, going past all the University boat houses. I will describe this on another run.

Return by going back up the river to the car park.

Note: Note: The river between Bottisham Lock and the Mill Pond is now covered by the canoe England licence that comes with membership..

Comments on this trip

Dawn Johnson
12 Oct 2019
Hi we are about to have a family holiday in Cambridge and some kayak, others don't. Does anybody know which bits of the Cam we can walk riverside

25 Jun 2007
If following a punt guide for a free commentary, beware as they are notoriously "inaccurate". More fun, if in a group is get close to a guided punt and to loudly explain to your party that this particular college is xxxx(doesn't matter what, as long as it is completely different to what the punt guide has just told his brood of tourists!)


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The last trip loaded was Great Haywood to Great Haywood (Circular Route) on the River Trent / Trent & Mersey Canal by Peter Robinson