Sunday, November 7, 2010

Taking a Punt.

The Antigua Boat Sheds are an iconic part of Christchurch's history. They've been part of the landscape for over 125 years and punting and canoe rides are as much a part of the city's activities today as they were then.
Things have changed a little admittedly. The ladies' waiting room and the gentlemen's dressing room of 1885 are no longer used as such for instance; and there's a cafe now; and the young men steering the punts are likely to be carrying cellphones.
The sheds were built in 1882 by two Lyttelton builders, Albert Shaw and J.T.Tidd. By 1887 that partnership had dissolved and a few years later, under the new ownership of Samuel Anstey of Fendalton, there were "70 well-built boats to choose from and a photographic room for the use of visitors." Dozens of Anstey's glass-plate negatives were later found in the attic above the Boat Sheds and are now safe and sound in Canterbury Public Library.
Although significantly damaged in a 1907 fire, the boat sheds survived and now, in 2010, both locals and visitors crowd in in the weekends for boating fun on the Avon River. There's a mix of punts, Canadian canoes, pedal boats and moulded plastic canoes. I often visit with my camera - seized I suppose, by some sense of romance that the boats, especially the punts, trigger in my imagination. I find them quite beautiful; and certainly, if you're looking for the quintessential 'English shot' of Christchurch, the boat sheds and all the activity that goes on there, deliver. I doubt there's a promotional piece of writing on Christchurch city anywhere, that doesn't feature a photograph of punters on the Avon.

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