"It’s humbling to see so many people travelling to your hometown"Daniel Hilton


Charlie McPartland

What do you do for work?

I work for Scudamore’s, Cambridge’s original punting company. I’m a river tour guide, so I sell the tickets (you know those annoying people that stand by the river and ask if you want to go punting? That’s me!), then I take people out on tour. I’m also a trainer for the company too, running a five-day course for new recruits and then checking up once they’ve completed it to make sure they’re not slacking!

Why did you choose this job?

Cambridge is my home town, and after working in catering for 10 years I was looking for a career break. Punting is obviously iconic and almost synonymous with the city of Cambridge, so I always had a passion for this place. I thought I would give it a go and I’m still here because it’s an awesome job!

How long have you worked here?

Two years

Favourite part of the job?

Meeting people from all over the world – 80 countries and counting! I love meeting people from all different cultures and backgrounds, engaging with them and showing them around the city. It’s humbling to see so many people travelling to your hometown.

Least favourite part of the job?

Standing outside in the cold rain when it’s not too busy in the winter – that can be a bit grating!

How did Scudamore’s begin?

The company was started in 1910 by Jack Scudamore, but there is a long history of punting.

What are your punting top tips?

99% of the time people end up in the river is because the pole gets stuck and they don’t let go, so that’s tip number one – always let go of the pole! Then the secret to going in a straight line is to line the pole up with the hoop in the middle of the boat, and let gravity do the work when dropping it into the water.

How many times have you ended up in the Cam?

Only once! It was outside Queens’ College – my pole got stuck in the concrete teeth below the waterline and I didn’t let go. A group of trainees for the company were going past on another boat at that exact moment and the trainer used me as an example of what not to do...

Favourite stretch of the river?

My favourite college is St. John’s and I love the Bridge of Sighs. I also love going through Darwin because its quieter than other parts of the backs.

Do you notice a town-gown divide in your work?

Maybe it was something in the past, but I don’t think it is anymore. I would say all the students I have met have been invariably polite and mild-mannered. My personal view is that this city wouldn’t be the place it is without the University, and I wouldn’t have a job – the town needs the gown! We have lots of student guides and they’re very good at their job, customers love them.

Favourite tour guide fact?

There’s loads of amazing stuff about Stephen Hawking – he’s obviously a genius but people forget how funny he was! My favourite is one from when he was a fellow at Caius in 2009 – he threw a “time travel” party but didn’t send the invitations until afterwards, to prove time travel didn’t exist. When asked why he gave 2 reasons: 1) he likes simple experiments, and 2) he likes champagne – what a legend!


Mountain View

A day in the life of Cambridge’s ‘busiest’ student

Most memorable experience?

Encountering celebrities is always fun. Ian McKellen came punting with us which was really cool. I wasn’t on the boat but I strategically placed myself on Magdalene Bridge and it took every ounce of me not to scream: “You shall not pass!” as he went under!

Any other famous customers?

Yes, lots, often famous alumni or people who have some engagement with the University. We’ve had Nancy Pelosi, Stephen Fry, Tom Jones and David Mitchell over the years.

Any other funny anecdotes?

I’ve seen a colleague get their pole stolen from someone on Garett Hostel [Orgasm] Bridge – as they threw it up in the air to punt someone on the bridge swiped it from above, leaving them stranded! Also on C-Sunday this year there were a load of John’s students lined up with Super Soakers and squirted us as we went past – I love any of that practical joke stuff.

If you could send a message to students here, what would it be?

To all the students at Cambridge? Good luck! By my understanding, Cambridge degrees are not easy to come by, so stay calm and stay focused and I wish you all the best for the rest of your time here!