THE businessman behind Stobo Castle is taking part in a major recovery mission following the devastating Australian bush fires.

Stephen Winyard, who is still chairman of the Peeblesshire health spa, flew down under to help in the ongoing clean up operation.

For several months wildfires ripped through vast expanses of the Australian countryside leaving death and devastation in their wake.

Mr Winyard has joined volunteers at Blaze Aid on Kangaroo Island - south west of Adelaide.

The wildfires that burned for weeks consumed half - more than 800 square miles - of the picturesque island.

Two people were killed, dozens of homes were destroyed, and wilderness parks were turned to cinders, littering the landscape with animal corpses.

Over the past few weeks, Blaze Aid has been rebuilding fences and other structures on Kangaroo Island.

Speaking from Australia, Mr Winyard told us: "The scale of the destruction is hard to take in with so many homes burnt to the ground along with the loss of tens of thousands of livestock and the livelihoods of many farmers wiped out.

"So sad, altogether - a truly humbling experience."

The Blaze Aid charity has operated in Australia for the past decade.

As well as sending in volunteers following major fires, the charity also works in communities devastated by floods.

Mr Winyard admits the recovery work has been a humbling experience.

He added: "We go out in teams of six at 6.30 each morning, replacing wire fencing in different locations so any surviving livestock can be contained within the perimeter of these farms.

"The volunteers are such wonderful, friendly people - many friendships have been forged since I've been here.

"An expression I hear every day is 'Thank you on behalf of Australia'.

"All I can say in response is that it's genuinely a very real privilege to be here."