‘Peasants’ revolt’ against King’s College ban on swimming in River Cam at Grantchester
A spoof letter claiming to be addressed to “peasants” from King’s College has been put up next to Grantchester Meadows following their ban on wild swimming.
The University of Cambridge college erected signs stating that swimming and watersports would no longer be allowed from the riverbank at the meadows, which it owns.
The decision by the college, who did not consult with local residents, has caused outrage and a petition against the ban has already attracted 17,000 signatures.
Now the fake letter has appeared in a frame next to the meadows.
It starts: “Dear peasants, It has come to our attention that large numbers of people have been using our land for meeting, swimming and enjoying themselves without increasing our large financial reserves; improving our research output or providing their offspring to serve at high table.
“As one of the world’s oldest and elitist institutions, King’s College would like to educate you about our power and your lack of freedom.
“The fact that Grantchester Meadows and the river have been enjoyed by and provided inspiration to generations of people is irrelevant, we own the land
“You live in a country where property rights, money and greed win every time over human rights, society and the common good.
“We know you think your views matter but they really don’t.”
The letter ends with a plea not to sign the petition on the ban “under any circumstances” and leaves a QR code which can be scanned on a mobile phone to take readers straight to the petition.
King’s College put up signs on Thursday (July 1) banning swimmers from entering the water from Grantchester Meadows.
Launching boats, kayaks or paddle boards from the meadows has also been banned at the beauty spot. The college claims that the decision has been made following reports of anti-social behaviour at the meadows, including drinking and drug taking, as well as rudeness to Grantchester residents and people discarding their punctured boats. The college also warns that overuse of the riverbank has led to erosion.
However, regular swimmers at the site say they are hugely disappointed and have raised a petition to try to reverse the decision. And the college sign has already been defaced, with “No Swimming” scratched off.
Following the public outcry about the ban, King’s College put out a statement on social media, saying: “The college has no desire to prevent anyone’s enjoyment of Grantchester Meadows, and has reluctantly made these additions to the signage for the following reasons:
“Unfortunately, Grantchester Meadows has become a frequent site for large gatherings of individuals entering the River Cam under the influence of alcohol and other drugs, and subsequently requiring emergency medical assistance.
“Sadly it has become increasingly apparent that this not only causes significant problems for the emergency services, but also brings with it a serious risk to life.
“As such it would be irresponsible for the college to continue to encourage swimming in an area where it is unsafe to do so. However, we would be entirely supportive of the council installing safe-swimming points on Grantchester Meadows, as it has elsewhere along the Cam.
“There have been a large number of reports from local residents about those bringing watercraft to the Cam through the meadows being very unsociable - blocking local roadways and drives, being rude to local residents and also discarding their punctured vessels.
“As we have seen far too often over the summer, this kind of anti-social behaviour reduces everyone’s enjoyment of the meadows and poses a significant threat to the local wildlife.
“Both the council and Cam Valley Forum have raised serious concerns about erosion to the riverbank, and the effect this is now having on the public footpath. This erosion is in large part due to people entering and exiting the river, or improperly mooring their vessels.
“We fully appreciate that swimming in the Cam is a popular activity and has numerous benefits for physical and mental health. The college has no desire to prevent anyone from sensibly exercising their right to swim in the Cam, or to navigate the Cam by kayak, punt etc.
“Nevertheless, we cannot in good conscience give our consent to these activities continuing as they currently are, with the evident dangers they pose to life, the consequences they have for others, and the damage they are causing to the physical integrity of the meadows.
“We will continue to work with the Grantchester Parish Council, Newnham councillors and local residents to manage the situation as best we can and preserve the integrity, beauty and accessibility of the meadows for all to enjoy.”