The Cam rises in Ashwell in Hertfordshire, progressing northwards to Cambridge. It then flows into the flat area of the Fens and onwards to Ely and King's Lynn. There it joins the sea at the Wash in Norfolk. Cambridge's humble beginnings relied strongly on this river connection when King's Lynn used to be one of busiest sea ports in England. Goods would travel inland to Cambridge which slowly grew as an inland port.
Some of the first colleges to be founded were built right on the banks of the river. On the riverside the colleges would benefit from this major trade route into the town of Cambridge. The result today is the "Backs", a one mile stretch of river that supports some of finest examples of architecture in England. Altogether there are 8 colleges and 9 bridges. These include Queens' College with the Mathematical Bridge, King's College with its famous chapel, and the Bridge Of Sighs at St. John's College.