Cambridge's famous punts are being taken off the River Cam for the first time ever

Cambridge's famous punts are being taken off the River Cam to be put into storage for the first time ever amid coronavirus fears.

Scudamore's Punting took the decision to close down indefinitely for the first time in the firm's history yesterday (Sat).

Punts are flat-bottomed boats that are propelled by pushing off the river bed with a 15ft long pole.

Video shows staff at the firm, which has been providing the famous rides in the city since 1910, towing the empty punts off the river to be stored away.

Punting is a popular activity in the university city, with tourists and locals flocking to the water to enjoy a relaxing ride along the scenic River Cam.

The company is not on the government's list of firms that need to close down under social distancing measures as it provides outdoor leisure activities.

But sales manager Charlie Stepney said the unprecedented decision was made in the interests of customer and staff safety.

The firm owns 200 punts and had 40 in operation over the winter season.

It is the first the time in its history that its entire fleet has been mothballed.

Mr Stepney said: "We will be storing all the boats off the river until further notice.

"We've deemed it unsafe as a company to continue to operate.

"Our hand has not been forced, we have decided to take this decision in the interests of our customers and staff."

The firm, who has 50 full-time staff, can employ up to 250 people during peak summer months.

Mr Stepney added: "It is the first time in the company's history we have closed down for an indefinite period of time.

"We don't operate when the temperature drops to -1, so we have closed for a few days or a week at a time.

"But we've never pulled our boats off the river and put them into storage indefinitely."

The punts will be kept on an island the firm owns off the river, where they will remain until a decision is taken to re-open.

Mr Stepney added: "It's absolutely right and necessary that we do this, but it is very sad.

"One a nice sunny Saturday like this, we would normally be busy and bristling, so it is sad to be putting them into storage and standing our staff down."

The firm's management will be meeting monthly to asses the situation and Mr Stepney said he hopes it will be open again in the future.