Behind The Scenes: Steeplechase Fence Building

09th July 2018

Behind The Scenes at Wetherby Racecourse: Steeplechase Fence Building

Ever wondered how we prepare for the busy season ahead once the flat racing is over? The action on the track doesn’t stop at racing, our hardworking Groundstaff are out there day in day out working to make sure that everything is ready.

We created a short video to give an insight into how a Steeplechase fence is crafted by the Groundstaff team at Wetherby Racecourse.

Wetherby has a total of Nine Steeplechase Fences. Each fence is a regulation height of 4ft’ 7” and the fences in the home straight are each 42ft wide.

Our fences are replaced over a three year rolling programme, with three of the nine fences being fully renewed annually while the remainder undergo extensive maintenance.

Wetherby’s Last Fence was completely re-built by hand by our Groundstaff team.    First they started by building a new permanent timber framework that they erected on-course and embedded into the ground. The frame was then painted with the familiar orange, on the take-off board at the bottom and the sighting rail above, which was then also padded. The space between the take-off board and sighting rail is called the ‘apron’ and this was then filled with birch packed horizontally and secured with birch ties.  The remainder of the fence was packed vertically with approximately 300 bundles of birch, which was then cut and shaped meticulously by hand. The final job was to level off the take-off and landing areas, re-turfing and re-seeding where necessary.  

We set up a time-lapse camera to record the activity at the Last Fence which took eight weeks from start to finish. Wetherby have a small Groundstaff team, and during this time they were also building two other fences and maintaining another six off camera.

We are extremely proud of the craftsmanship that goes into building and maintaining our Steeplechase fences and the meticulous care that our Groundstaff take to keep them in top condition throughout the season.   

Our Head Groundsman Ian Ward, has worked at the Racecourse for over 45 years, since starting as a young lad working racedays in charge of the numbers board; when he probably should have been at school!

Each Racecourse’s grounds team will have their own way of building and finishing their fences. The art of building a ‘Wetherby’ steeplechase fence was passed onto Ian by former Head-groundsman Cyril Frost, and in turn Ian has passed this knowledge onto the other members of the grounds team, Ian Foster and Neil Kidd. Our newest trainee groundsman Marcus Andrews is now also learning the process and assisted to make Fence 10, our new showcase Fence within the Paddock Enclosure, last summer. 

We hope that Wetherby fences will continue to be built using traditional craftsmanship for many years to come.