Fence rebuilt as a tribute to soldiers

Strathdon, a fence that was originally built by convallecing Belgium soldiers has been reconstructed. Richard Marsh the property owner comissioned Alan Raich to rebuild the fence.''Pic of Richard Marsh with his wife Pamel Marsh and the tradesmen that rebuilt the fence; Rob Lawson, Alan Raich and Alex Noble''PIC LEX BALLANTYNE/NEWSLINE SCOTLAND
Strathdon, a fence that was originally built by convallecing Belgium soldiers has been reconstructed. Richard Marsh the property owner comissioned Alan Raich to rebuild the fence.''Pic of Richard Marsh with his wife Pamel Marsh and the tradesmen that rebuilt the fence; Rob Lawson, Alan Raich and Alex Noble''PIC LEX BALLANTYNE/NEWSLINE SCOTLAND

An unusual historic fence has been built at the home of one of Billy Connolly’s neighbours as a touching tribute to Belgian soldiers.

Specialist contractors were drafted in to recreate the construction, thought to have been originally built by wounded war soldiers recuperating at Bellabeg House, Strathdon, in 1916.

The building was commissioned as a temporary hospital during World War I.

Engineer Richard Marsh bought the property 30 years ago and spent three years searching for a fencing company willing to recreate the fence.

Eventually a Kincardine O’Neil firm agreed to take on the work.

Since Bellabeg House is a listed building, planners insisted that the fence had to be reinstated to original detail.

The 60-metre fence was built along the roadside of the Donside house which is visited by comedian Billy Connolly during his visit to the Lonach Games in August each year.

But the task proved much more difficult than the team first thought and they had to work through months of complications to build it.

Alan Riach, of Deeside Log Cabins, said it was the most challenging work he has completed to date.

“The enormity of the task hit home when we discovered that the larch timber had to be cut in the winter time because larch cut in the growing season sheds its bark,” he said. “A further complication was the small diameter - 2½ - 3 inches - of the larch required for infill detail. This could only come from scheduled thinnings, using the top 10 feet of the tree.

“Frank Tomlinson, from the Forestry Commission, was very helpful, and advised when and where larch thinning operations were taking place.”

Mr Riach said he hoped the building work would then begin to gather pace but the team were faced with another dilemma.

The blades on the machine harvesters were stripping off the bark so they had to trim branches and twigs off the wood by hand.

Mr Riach added: “Problems solved? Not quite.

The Winter of 2010/2011 was very harsh, and we had to battle through deep snow, to collect the timber from Bennachie forest.

“When we finally got the timber indoors, it took about five to six days to defrost each batch, before we could cut it.

“Although we hired in a modern, portable sawmill to cut the timber longitudinally, all the cutting and shaping had to be done by hand. We were determined to see it all through.”

The restoration work is now finished - five months and 600 man hours after the team began - and the fence has quickly become an unoffical tourist attraction.

Mr Riach added: “Luckily, our customer Mr Marsh was a very patient man.

He is delighted with it. People driving past are stopping to have a look at the fence and are all asking about it.

“It was a major challenge. It was a quantum leap from the work we have done up until now.

But we’re now looking forward to the next challenge.”