Take a paddle down memory lane

A picture taken at a Lions Raft Race during the 1980s.

A picture taken at a Lions Raft Race during the 1980s.

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Forty years on from the scorching summer of 1976, the Wellesbourne and Shakespeare Lions club’s raft race is still as strong as ever.

And, as the club celebrates the race’s 40th anniversary, members are inviting people to share their memories of taking part, helping out at or watching the event over the years.

Since 1976, the race has raised £750,000 for charities based in and around south Warwickshire.

This year’s main beneficiary is Heart of England Mencap, the Stratford-based charity that supports people with learning disabilities across Warwickshire and Worcestershire.

And as well as signing up to take part in the 7.5-mile paddle from Wasperton to Stratford in homemade rafts, members are urging people to share any stories or photos they have of previous events on the raft race Facebook page.

The club’s first raft race took place after the then Wellesbourne Lion president Brian Walden was impressed by a similar event in Birmingham. He appointed Robin Hammond - still a Wellesbourne Lion today - to lead the event. Some 58 teams took part and raised £1,800 for the Selly Oak Children’s Kidney Unit.

Today, the race still attracts more than 60 rafts each year, who manage to raise well over £10,000 towards charitable projects.

This year’s race committee chairman is Kelvin McIntosh, who said: “The history of the race is fascinating and we would love to hear the memories of those brave enough to take part over the years - and to see any photos from the archives too.

“It’s a very special event – started in the days when challenges like this were far from the norm. We owe a huge thank you to everyone who has helped make the raft race such a success over the past four decades – and to all of those who will help us make another 40.”

Memories and pictures can be shared online at www.facebook.com/lionsraftrace

This year’s raft race takes place on Sunday July 24. For details and to enter or sign up a team or to volunteer at the event, visit www.raftrace.org.uk