River Cam: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about the River Cam.

  • The River Cam flows from the university city of Cambridge, to the Great Ouse River, near Ely.
  • It is about 64 km long and the entire river is navigable.

  • Clare College Bridge is the oldest of over 20 bridges across the Cam in Cambridge. Part of the decoration was never completed; one story tells that the builder felt he wasn’t paid enough.
  • One of the most famous bridges over the Cam is the Mathematical Bridge at Queens’ College. The wooden bridge was built in 1749 of straight timbers and is unusually strong.

The River Cam

  • The covered Bridge of Sighs at St. John’s College is another famous Cambridge bridge. It may have been given its name from students sighing as they walked across it on their way to take their exams.
  • Punting is a popular pastime with students and tourists on the River Cam. Scudamore’s is the oldest punting company in Cambridge, and has been in business since 1910.
  • The Conservators of the River Cam was founded in 1702, to oversee navigation on the river. The headquarters at Clayhithe can still be seen, but today navigation is handled by the Environment Agency.

River Cam

  • The water level in the River Cam is carefully controlled by several locks and weirs. The Environment Agency is responsible for the water level, and for issuing flood warnings.
  • The River Cam flooded in 2001 and again in 2009. In October, 2001 over 80 mm of rain fell on the city of Cambridge in a single day.
  • Several colleges in Cambridge back on to the river – an area known as the Backs. At one time, the land was used for growing fruit or raising cattle and sheep.
  • The River Cam may be home to the burbot, a species of fish often thought to be extinct. Fishing is not popular on the Cam as the water is generally too clear.

What next? Discover more river facts by visiting our Rivers resources page.

Cambridge: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Cambridge.

  • Cambridge is the county town of Cambridgeshire, located in the eastern part of England.

  • The city is about 80 km northeast of London and has a population of about 125,000.
  • The city is home to the University of Cambridge, one of the world’s top universities. The university consists of over 30 separate colleges, and over 100 academic departments.
  • Cambridge University was founded in the early 13th century, making it the 4th oldest in the world. In 1233, Pope Gregory IX gave permission for the students to teach anywhere in the known world.
  • Peterhouse, founded in 1284, is the oldest college still in existence. It still carries on many traditions, including the reading of Latin verses before meals, and requires students to wear gowns at mealtimes.
  • Hundreds of famous people have studied at the university over the years. Well-known alumni include Charles Darwin, John Cleese, Christopher Marlowe and 15 British Prime Ministers.
  • About 25 percent of Cambridge residents cycle to work, the highest number in the UK.
  • In 2014, the third stage of the Tour de France cycle race started in the city.
  • All the staircases in Trinity College are designated by letters rather than numbers. There is no ‘J’ staircase because St. John’s is considered to be their main rival.
  • The chapel at King’s College is one of the city’s best known buildings. The 15th century building has 26 large stained glass windows and the world’s largest fan-vault ceiling.
  • Punting is popular on the River Cam and there are more punts than on any other UK river. It has been known for students to grab the poles from tourists in punts as they go under the bridges.
  • The rock group Pink Floyd was formed in Cambridge during the late 1960s.
  • The city hosts several arts and music festivals each year, including the Midsummer Fair, dating back to 1211.