Brothers who learnt to sail at Upton Warren to take over centre

By Tristan Harris Wednesday 05 February 2014 Updated: 07/02 01:47

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Buy photos » Aztec worker Scott Dowling with Mark and Craig Spence who are taking over the running of the Upton Warren Outdoor Education Centre. s

TWO WATERSPORTS enthusiasts who learnt to sail at Upton Warren Outdoor Education Centre have spoken of their delight at taking over the venue and securing its long-term future.

Brothers Craig and Mark Spence, who set up Aztec Watersports in 1993, will run the centre currently operated by Worcestershire County Council.

The authority has been looking to transfer the running of the centre in a bid to make budget savings and Craig and Mark were chosen after a rigorous selection process.

The pair were inspired after trips to Upton Warren while they were at school and, as well as running the Royal Yachting Association and British Canoe Union accredited Aztec and other similar ventures, they have also travelled the world competing in wind-surfing contests.

Craig outlined to The Standard their ambitious plans for developing the centre.

He said at the moment only 15 per cent of the county's schools - around 40,000 schoolchildren - used the centre, but they wanted to increase that, along with encouraging more groups, such as scouts and guides, to come there for residentials and activities. They are also hoping to offer more activities at weekends and in the school holidays.

"It's good to get people active, out there, trying activities that will challenge them and participating in team-building exercises.

"At the moment, the centre is not very welcoming to the public and we want to change all that."

Mark said as their initial experience on the water at Upton Warren led them both to pursue a career and business in watersports and leisure, it was fitting for them to be taking over the centre.

"We will invest and develop the centre further, but our main focus will continue to be the education and learning for Worcestershire schools, organisations, clubs and charities currently using the centre," he said.

The centre's 20-acre lake plays host to watersports for all ages, including canoeing, kayaking, sailing, windsurfing and improved rafting.

And Craig said they also wanted to increase the numbers using the land-based activities offered at the centre, such as climbing, a ropes course, a high poles course, a tunnel complex, team-building challenges, camping and archery.

There is also a nature reserve.

Negotiations are now underway and the handover is scheduled to take place on April 3.

Coun Liz Eyre, Worcestershire County Council's Cabinet Member for Children and Families, said: "The handover of Upton Warren Outdoor Education Centre will see an important community asset transfer to an organisation which is well suited to manage, organise and provide for the future of this centre of sporting excellence to ensure it will benefit the local community and Worcestershire's children and young people for years to come."

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