A Traditional Oxford Summer

There are several elements that are vital for the traditional Oxford summer experience, and here at ORA we try to introduce our students to all of them.

Image shows ORA students punting.
One of our counsellors shows students how to punt.

First, of course, is punting. Punting for pleasure (rather than, say, for angling) dates back to Victorian times and is a wonderfully tranquil way to travel down the river. Aside from the occasional splash of the pole (and even that is kept to a minimum by experienced punters), you can drift forward in almost complete silence – even compared to something like a rowing boat or a loud, splashy pedalo. The sense of serenity is added to by your proximity to the calm water – punting in less calm waters is a more fraught experience that we don’t recommend! Thankfully, the Cherwell in Oxford is a peaceful and undisturbed river.
Punting is reasonably easy even if you’re a complete novice. The only absolute rule to remember is that if the pole gets stuck in the bottom of the river, let go of it! Otherwise the pole stays put, the boat keeps moving, and the punter ends up having an unexpected swim.

Image shows a croquet game in progress.
A game of croquet at the University Parks.

Another classic English summer pastime is croquet. For this you need a croquet set and a completely flat lawn, for which the well-manicured lawns of Oxford colleges are perfect. Croquet is a slow-moving game, but for all that it can get surprisingly competitive! It looks deceptively easy – swing the mallet, hit the ball; how hard can it be? – but it requires a degree of precision that can be challenging. Lewis Carroll, who spent most of his adult life in Oxford, famously satirised the game in Alice in Wonderland.
Finally, cricket is the classic way to spend a summer afternoon in England. It’s woven into the fabric of British national identity so that even people who aren’t particularly fond of the game feel a sense of contentment at the sight of it being played. Edmund Charles Blunden, a professor of poetry at Oxford, described it as “worship in the summer sun.”
If you want to join ORA to experience a traditional English summer, it isn’t too early to sign up for 2015 – browse our course options now ➙