Saturday, 25 January 2014

Back to the Cam

Given the confusion over dates for access by narrow boats to the Backs of the Cam I contacted the River Manager, who kindly replied to say:

  "Somehow, over time, the dates for permitting navigation along the 'middle river' or College Backs have become muddled. The Conservators have never formally defined a policy by committee decision insofar as I have been able to find out by reading through the Minutes. I believe that the policy to control traffic along these reaches is delegated to the 'Control Officer' in accordance with byelaw 3 (n.b. the River Manager holds the combined posts of statutory Control Officer/Engineer and Clerk).
  The present working arrangement is to permit motorised craft access above Jesus Lock between 1st October and 31st March each year. We worked closely with Camboaters on the useful guidance document for navigating the Backs. As we drafted the document, I decided to stick with 1st October. It would be unfair to restrict motorised craft for more than 6 months. This at least achieves a balance between powered and unpowered river craft users."

All of this is extremely reasonable and even flexible. A narrow boat is a real danger amongst a flotilla of inexperienced tourist punters and caution is needed even when the flotilla has reduced to a huddle of frozen Japanese students at Christmas - but at least going in the off season reduces the risk.

I think the best action for anyone contemplating motoring the backs is to use those dates as a wise guideline then contact the Cam Conservators directly - which was always the case anyway. And do view the new booklet, which is informative and well produced, as well as our own blog entries for useful detail and planning.

Not entirely incidentally, since our own trip, licensing arrangements have changed and boaters should be aware that there is now a charge, separate from the Environment Agency license, to boat on the Cam. See for details. That would be £121 (if purchased in advance) for 45 ft Patience simply to visit the stretch of water from Baits Bite Lock onwards for a few days as a visitor. An additional expense to think about before leaving EA territory ....

Saturday, 4 January 2014


On Wednesday last a piece in The Times showed a pleasant photo of a narrow boat on the Cam at The Backs claiming that travel by narrow boats on this stretch of river was only possible on New Year’s Day.
Having made the journey ourselves in 2011 I responded and my letter - together with David’s classic shot of Clare and Kings - featured in The Times of 4th January 2014. I suppose “Dreadnought” refers to the alarming size of Patience compared to puny punts.
Fame for Patience!