Petition to ‘keep access to the river at Grantchester Meadows open to all’ has over 17,000 signatures

The petition was created in response to King’s College’s recent decision to ban swimming and boating in the river there


A petition calling for the river at Grantchester Meadows to remain open to the public has reached over 17,000 signatures today (05/07) and is still growing.

The petition was started by Camila Ilsley on 1st July 2021 in response to the decision by King’s College Cambridge to revoke public access to the river which runs alongside Grantchester Meadows, Cambridge.

King’s College, which owns the land, said it has “no desire to prevent anyone’s enjoyment” of the area, but that it “cannot in good conscience” allow activities there to continue as they currently are, and so “reluctantly” instated the ban.

Cambridge students enjoying the river (Image credit: Rosie Smart Knight)

Attached to her petition, Camila has suggested that the decision to ban swimming and boating in this stretch of the river will “shut down traditions dear to the people of Cambridge” and “choke our connection with its beautiful natural surroundings.”

Petition creator Camilla also writes: “Whilst the land is owned by the college, it has been an asset of community value for over 500 years.”

“Public use of the meadows for swimming, canoeing and punting has in living memory always been enjoyed by the people of Cambridge as it is one of the greatest areas of natural beauty lying within easy reach for city residents.”

Although she says that the petition’s signatories “understand” the desire for “careful management” of the meadows in order to preserve them, she also adds: “The closure would deny new generations the sense of well-being and enjoyment derived from the river at the only accessible spot where you can swim away from traffic and infrastructure.”

She acknowledges the factors which have contributed to increased use of the area over the last 18 months, such as “rapid development across the city with inadequate amenities to match”, “closure of facilities due to the pandemic”, and “more people seeking Covid-safe diversion from lockdown.” However, she suggests these are “extraordinary circumstances” and “not firm grounds” on which to base such “drastic action” as this ban.

She claims that this ban feels like “the gown dismissing the town”, which she says “is not a useful or constructive approach for a progressive city”, especially when we are trying to “build a better ‘new normal.'”

The petition therefore calls for a “public consultation” in which “all users of the river” at Grantchester Meadows can “review the proposed action” and “discuss workable solutions” that meet all parties’ needs, “without the need for stringent measures.” 

Feature image credit: Rosie Smart-Knight