Bumpin’ and Ballin’ in Cambridge

Last weekend I had the most lovely trip to Cambridge with my mum and my boyfriend, Joe. My sister, Lucy, is at the University of Cambridge and for the last year she has been Women’s Boat Club Captain for her college, Emmanuel. Each year there is a big rowing competition between all the colleges in Cambridge (there are a lot) and so this year we decided to go down and watch the final 2 days of the competition. My sister has kindly summarised May Bumps for me as..

“A rowing race in which boats start evenly spaced apart and try and catch (“bump”) the boat in front before they are caught by the crew behind. This happens over 4 days, and each day the crews that bumped the day before swap places and start in a new order, with the aim either to finish at the front (head of the river) or to go up a place every day.”


On Friday morning we drove to Cambridge and went to Emmanuel College to have lunch with my sister on their paddock. Turns out you have to be good at multitasking – eating whilst swatting away the ducks who are eyeing up your food 24/7.

We then had a wander around the city centre, as Joe had never visited before, and then drove over to the Airbnb that we had booked for the weekend. It was in an ideal location and we could walk to the city centre.

After this it was time to head over to the river to see the first day of Bumps and I was very excited as I have only ever seen one day of Bumps before, two years ago, but this year Lucy was in W1 (the top women’s boat) and they had already bumped the 2 days before and so they had moved up from 6th to 4th and potential to go up even further…

We decided to watch from The Plough at Fen Ditton, a lovely pub on the riverside who make a BIG deal of Bumps. They had multiple bars set up, a BBQ and a pizza oven with lots of seats just on the river side.IMG_6023

Processed with VSCO with p5 preset Joe was very happy that there was a Peroni stall and mum and I were chuffed with the Pimm’s stall, who can say no on a super hot day?!


We were watching many races trying to spot different colleges and listening to the radio working out who had bumped – slowly but steadily we started to get the hang of it (thanks to the programme!!).


IMG_6015After watching a few races it got to 7pm, when Lucy was racing, and the atmosphere was incredible. We had seen her rowing up to the start line and the whole crew looked strong and determined. After a very tense few minutes of listening to the commentary on the radio, we saw them in the distance gaining on the boat in front of them. After some very loud cheering (particularly from Mum) they were getting closer and closer to the boat in front and just as they were going round the corner the boat in front conceded and Lucy’s boat had bumped… Again!! It was so lovely for us to see them do so well and Lucy was chuffed.



 After a bit of a lazy morning, Mum headed to a café to meet Lucy for a drink whilst Joe and I headed into town to pick up some last minute things for the May Ball (!!) – I know, so unprepared. After getting very sweaty in the 28 degree heat, we had picked up everything we needed and decided to go and get lunch from Waitrose and met up with Mum to head down to the river for the final day of May Bumps. Along the river we passed the boat houses for each college and here is a photo of the Emmanuel boat house with a crew having celebratory photos on!

IMG_6144As we were walking along the river we came along a little outdoor pub with some food stalls and decided it would be a good place to get a drink and eat our lunch – after a German grapefruit beer and a lie down in a hammock I felt 100x better!IMG_6150IMG_6159IMG_6162After walking along the river for a while longer we managed to find the finish line and walked along part of the course of the race, managing to find shelter under a tree as it was SO HOT. We then watched a few more races and at 5pm we headed a bit further up the river to watch Lucy’s race. We were just down from the pub we were at on Friday and had a good view of a long stretch of the river. IMG_6197 (1)After hearing that the 1 minute to go canon had gone off our hearts were racing as we know how much the crew wanted this bump and so we turned on the radio to hear the commentary of the race at the start and (amazingly) they managed to bump even before we could see them!! We were over the moon for Lucy, and the rest of their crew, who are an amazing team and so strong they managed to go from 6th to 2nd on the river – they bumped every day which means they got “blades” – an award that you get if you bump every day and you get an  actual blade personalised with the crew’s names and details of the bumps! If only there was another day of bumps – they may even have become head of the river but there is always next year…IMG_6208IMG_6210

We are incredibly proud of Lucy and everything she has achieved with her rowing these past 3 years and we are so grateful that were able to go and see her in these races!!


Possibly one of the hottest and most unbearable days of the year!! But that being said, we weren’t going to let it ruin our last day in Cambridge. Mum and I decided to go to St Barnabas Church, which was only a very short walk away from our airbnb over a really cool bridge!! This is the church Lucy goes to and we got to meet a few of Lucy’s friends.IMG_6231IMG_6227

We then headed to the market in the centre. It was scorching hot so we found shelter in many shops that had air conditioning on our way (Shout out to Sainsbury’s for having the best air con) and then picked up some food from Wasabi for lunch.IMG_6233IMG_6235IMG_6238

It was then time to start getting ready for the May Ball!!  Thank you, again, to my amazing sister for managing to getting Joe and I tickets and thank you to Mum for helping me to get ready and being all round fabulous. At around 8 Mum drove Joe and I to the Emmanuel May Ball which was incredible and definitely a once in a lifetime experience for us. It was like a mini festival with various acts and everything was included in the price of the ticket which meant unlimited food and drinks (Joe was VERY happy with this) The Emmanuel May Ball was based around the story of art and we had the most amazing time there, and it was lovely to be able to spend time with Lucy and her friends there. When it turned midnight Joe and I grabbed some fizz (and some chips and gravy of course) as it was Joe’s Birthday!! It was a very special night and at around 5:30 am we got a taxi back to the Airbnb, absolutely exhausted.


(Here are a few lower quality photos taken on my phone from the night)


After around 3 hours sleep Joe and I had to wake up and shove everything in our suitcases and mum drove us home (after stopping at McDonalds of course…) This draws a close on our trip to Cambridge and, whilst it was very hot, we had a lovely weekend.

Thank you again to Mum for everything, Lucy for the amazing rowing and the May Ball and thank you to Joe for the lovely company, as always. We had the best time and I can’t wait for our next trip to Cambridge.

Well done if you managed to read the whole of this (very rambly) post and I hope you all have a lovely summer.


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