In retrospect it always seems to be summer on the [Cherwell], and a fine day at that.

So said Jan Morris, and in these words she captures the peculiarly opalescent quality with which the river is remembered by those who have strolled her banks, plied her waters, or simply sat beside her of an evening, among the willows, listening to peals of bell-song drifting thinly across the meadows.

In contrast to the bigger and brasher Isis – a fat, grey artery criss-crossed with rowers, smacks, barges, litter, and the dark knowledge of London to the east – the Cherwell seems half-forgotten, like an overgrown afterthought carved quietly behind a handful of colleges who have colluded to keep her their secret. The dappled shade, the midges, the heron-priested banks, the punts tethered idly to mooring places, the angler silhouetted in mist: these memories continue to sparkle in the mind long after wet bottoms and lost paddles have been forgotten.

The Cherwell River is a symbol both of summer and of Wolfson. Cherwell Day is an occasion on which the college and university community celebrates its relationship with the river and with summer in the best way possible: by punting, playing croquet, drinking Pimms in the gardens, and sharing a well-cooked dinner. Wolfson isn’t yet a very old college, but it already has some fine traditions: Cherwell Day is among the finest.


About Cherwell Day

Cherwell Day is an annual punt regatta and croquet tournament held at Wolfson College, Oxford.

For many colleges, summer signals an ending. Undergraduates leave for the long vacation. Kitchens shutter. Books gather dust. Porters doze. Trees and lawns wilt to brown in Oxford’s limestone sun.

This phenomenon is alien to Wolfson. As a graduate college, it doesn’t estivate with the same lethargic sang-froid as do its undergraduate peers. The rhythm of life does slow in the summer, but it never stops completely. Indeed, there is something in the whitewash of its walls and the verdure of its quads that causes the summer sun to vivify the place. Angles are etched in lapidary detail; cloisters fill with the smell of wildflowers; the blue sky is reflected in windows.

Wolfson does summer well, and it does it well in virtue of its landscape. The meadows, the river, the trees and the gardens – all tucked behind north Oxford’s handsome streets, with their rose-red houses ‘half as old as time’.  Summer in the city is a drudge; summer by the river is bliss.

Every year, Wolfson College celebrates its geographical good fortune on Cherwell Day. Cherwell Day is an important event in the pattern of college life. It is an opportunity for students, fellows, family and friends to come together on a summer’s afternoon; to wash off the dyspeptic patina of ‘busy-ness’ that crowds the place the rest of the year; and to enjoy a day of merriment, japes and high-jinks – seasoned, of course, with some healthy competition. Cherwell Day has four elements. There is a punt regatta. There is a croquet tournament. There are drinks in the garden. And there is a dinner.

The Admiral of the Punts and the Master of Croquet warmly invite you to Cherwell Day 2016. You can participate in all of the festivities, some, or none. What matters is simply that you embrace the timeless spirit of a Cherwell summer. It is, after all, what the founders who set us up on this bucolic riverbank would have wanted.


Fred Hamilton and Matt Naiman


Cherwell Day has four elements: a punt regatta, a croquet tournament, drinks in the gardens, and a gowned dinner. You may come to some, all or none*.


11 am – 5 pm: Punt Regatta

Teams will take turns to punt a short course, starting a few hundred metres upstream and finishing under the Wolfson bridge. The punting will be timed. The eight fastest teams will randomly divide into four quarter-finals, contested as further time-trials. The winners of the quarter-finals will then divide into two semi-finals, and the winners of those will race in a Grand Final.

Teams must consist of between two and four people. To use a Wolfson punt, at least one team member must hold a Punt Club permit. Members of other colleges are invited to participate using their own punts. All punters, Wolfson or not, must register via the same link on this website.


11 am – 5 pm: Croquet Tournament

The tournament will consist of single knock-out timed regulation team matches. Teams will consist of two players. Each match has 55 minutes to be played and matches will begin promptly on the hour. The team that completes a half circuit and posts out both of their balls or scores the most hoops wins. All matches will take place on the Wolfson College Croquet Pitch or on a temporary Croquet Pitch set up on Wolfson College’s Harbor Quad.

The Tournament is limited to 16 teams.


5.30 pm – 7 pm: Drinks

Punters, croquet-players, family and friends will gather in the gardens for Pimms and equivalent beverages. The winners of the regatta and the tournament will be honoured with prizes.


7.30 pm – 10.30pm: Dinner

A formal dinner will be served in the Haldane Room. Speeches will be delivered after dinner.


10.30 pm – late: Bar

We will retreat to the Bar when the traditional Cherwell Day saturnalia will continue.


Please note: although the regatta and tournament run concurrently, the day will be organised so as to allow individuals/teams to participate in both. If you want to participate in both, please register as usual using the relevant sign-up forms.

* There is one exception: to attend drinks in the garden one must also either a) have participated in punting or croquet or b) have booked a place at the dinner.

Dress Code

In keeping with tradition, celebrants of Cherwell Day must observe a dress code, the basic description of which is ‘summer formal’ and the basic idea of which will be familiar from such things as the Henley Royal Regatta and Three Men in a Boat.


Suggested Attire


Blazer and/or waistcoat; shirt; tie, bow-tie or cravat; trousers.

Straw boater hats (or similar) are encouraged.


Summer dress or skirt.

It is customary, but not, required, for ladies to wear hats.


When punting or playing croquet, blazers may be removed and sleeves rolled up.

When punting, at least two members of each team must sport a straw boater hat (these may be borrowed from the Punt Admiral on the day).

No jeans, trainers, shorts, and business suits may be worn at any time during Cherwell Day celebrations.

Academic gowns must be worn at both drinks and dinner by all academic members of the University.


To participate in the punt regatta or the croquet tournament: £5 per team


Tickets for the dinner: £30 per person

Team fee for the punt regatta (up to four persons): £10

Team fee for the croquet tournament (up to two persons): £5

Payment options for both Wolfson members and others are detailed on the registration forms.

 Please note: a) drinks in the garden are covered by either contribution; b) in the event that all of the members of your croquet team are registered for the punt regatta you will not be charged for the croquet tournament; c) gentlemen wearing striped blazers and ladies wearing hats are entitled to a £1 discount on dinner tickets.

To register for the sporting events and to purchase dinner tickets, please go to the registration page.


Cherwell Day celebrations are open to all college members, friends, family, members of other colleges and the University, and members of other universities.


To enter a team into the regatta, please follow this link: punting registration.


To enter a team into the croquet tournament, please follow this link: croquet registration.


To reserve a place at the Cherwell Dinner, please follow this link: dinner registration.

Please not the following details and qualifications:

  1. The deadline for cancellations is the fourteenth day of May, three hours past noon. After this date no refunds can be offered.
  2. Anyone (satisfying the dress code) may participate in the punt regatta and/or the croquet tournament, but due to space constraints the Cherwell Dinner is reserved for members of Wolfson College only (with a maximum of one guest per member).
  3. Punting teams consisting only of non-Wolfsonians must supply their own punt. Teams containing at least one member of the Wolfson College Punt Club may use Wolfson punts.
  4. Croquet kit will be provided by the Wolfson College Croquet Club, although teams from other colleges are welcome to bring their own mallets.
  5. Drinks in the garden are to enjoyed only by those who have either a) punted or played croquet; b) booked a place at dinner; or c) both.


Particulars of heats, races and matches will be detailed here shortly.


Cherwell Day is hosted jointly by the Wolfson College Punt Club and the Wolfson College Croquet Club at Wolfson College, Linton Road, Oxford, OX2 6UD.

If you have questions or require further information, please contact the organisers at