Exclusive River Raft Tours Set To Launch In Shropshire

Thousands of tourists a year will enjoy a new scenic float raft tour down the River Severn when a new company launches in Shropshire.

Shropshire Raft Tours have already taken to the water and hosted exclusive pre-booked familiarisation trips on their 12-person specially made, over-sized 25ft rafts during the summer for families, tour operators, school teachers, youth group leaders, event management owners, sport club leaders and business owners from across the UK.

The company will be officially launched in April next year.

The five kilometre scenic float trip will start from Abbey Sports and Social Club in Buildwas including a round trip lasting up to two and a half hours, taking in wonderful views as the raft passes under the Iron Bridge, part of the UNESCO Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site.

Manager and Guide of Shropshire Raft Tours, Nigel Winfield, is a qualified kayak and white-water raft guide with more than 20 years of experience and has guided 3,000 commercial trips on some of the top five white-water rivers across the world.

Mr Winfield has worked in France, Mexico, Spain, Costa Rica and Canada.

The company has invested more than £18,000 into the rafts alone, along with a further £5,000 on safety equipment and accessories.

Shropshire Raft Tours is aiming to provide a “scenic guided float trip along the River Severn and under the Iron Bridge” from the whitewater style raft for people aged from one up to the retired.

Mr Winfield explains: “We provide family fun from toddler to grandparents. It’s the only rafting trip where the whole family and extended family can go together.”

The company motto is “mild not wild” and he is hoping to attract pensioners travelling to Ironbridge on coach trips and local families with young children who want a weekend or school holiday adventure and also exclusive trips including school educational trips and special birthday parties.

Mr Winfield is also offering businesses the chance to enjoy corporate floats and team building exercises.

Mr Winfield, who currently lives in Shrewsbury, but will be living in Ironbridge when the company is launched next year, said: “Shropshire Raft Tours will be offering mild not wild adventures - the main attraction will obviously be viewing the magnificent historic Ironbridge Gorge from the open raft without any viewing restrictions and going under the Iron Bridge too of course.

“It will be a fully guided trip with a photographer to capture the experience with a great bird’s eye view of the raft and the best bit is that you get the rafting experience whilst the guides do all of the hard work.

“We start easy as it’s supposed to be on a float trip most of the way finishing with a little adventure by completing the Jackfield rapids at the end. All school groups receive a free Shropshire Raft Tour photograph of their raft team for completing the trip.”

Mr Winfield said: “We have spent the last few months bringing 400 group leaders and tour operators from across the UK to see what I will be offering in the Ironbridge Gorge.

“The company will be buying four rafts initially and will consider buying a fifth depending on the demand for next year.

“Businesses set their budget for team building exercises within the previous year and the tourism industry plan so far ahead.

“Likewise people booking special birthday trips and holiday excursions, so it was important for me to host the familiarisation trips first so people know what we are offering before the company’s official launch in April 2015.”

The water enthusiast said he had witnessed a raft trip with a 101-year-old woman in Canada on a similar float tour and has guided a trip on class IV river himself with a 83-year-old passenger on board.

“Retired people aren’t necessarily old these days - they want exciting activities and have a wonderful sense of adventure and fun.

“Many children miss out on raft trips due to age restrictions but this is milder rather than a wilder adventure so they get to go too.

“Shropshire’s World Heritage Site offers so much and I hope this new river service will add to the footfall and to the wonderful attractions which are already here.

“I will be appointing booking agents in Ironbridge so tourists can book their place there and then and then drive the short distance to Abbey Sports and Social Club before boarding the raft for their adventure,” he said.

“I am looking forward to teaming up with businesses across the region but especially with the traders of Ironbridge so we can all enhance each other’s businesses.”

Mr Winfield said the managing of such a company was his dream job.

“I’m managing this project because I love what I do. Since returning to the UK from working abroad I have literally been like a duck out of water.

“Guiding on the water and sharing my enjoyment is what I love doing - the launch of Shropshire Raft Tours is a dream job for me,” he said.

Shropshire Raft Tours is looking forward to offering employment opportunities to young people who share this passion but they needed to be a UKCC Level 1 Raft Guide certified and a member of the British Canoe Union.

There are on-the-job training positions for driver and photographers too.

Any tour operators, school teachers, youth group leaders, event management owners, sport club leaders and business owners who would like to register an interest for a place who would like to book a group booking and receive an early bird rate for 2015 should email [email protected] or call on 01952 426100 or 07580216570.

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Pete White Pete White

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