THEY travelled from as far away as Sutton Coldfield and Loughborough to look around Fred Dibnah’s “Aladdin’s cave” of a work yard.

I was among the first 30 visitors to be shown around the yard, which has been lovingly restored and made into a heritage centre.

And everyone agreed that the conversion is a huge success.

Leon Powsney, who bought Fred’s former Radcliffe Road home with his wife, Jan, last March, has poured countless amounts of his own money — and time — into the project, and the result is something quite amazing.

I’ll admit that I only ever had a passing interest in Fred when he was alive, although I remember conducting quite a pleasant phone interview with him at the height of his fame which caused me to take a more active interest after his death in November, 2004.

And the idea of looking around a yard full of old junk (in my eyes) didn’texactly fill me with joy.

But the enthusiasm of Leon and his team, which includes Fred’s mate Alf Molyneux, is very infectious and you do get a real sense of history and the spirit of Fred, who spent decades working in the yard and its various workshops.

The mineshaft which caused so much controversy has been lit from within to give visitors a glimpse at the project Fred had always hoped would be his legacy while in the main workshop, which stands silent for now, you can imagine the belts and the machinery whirring and clattering away as Fred went about his business.

And there are even a few reminders of its previous owner, with Fred’s work pants, jumpers and raincoat hanging from various pulleys and ropes used in years gone by to lift ladders and anvils.

Leon, nervous at the start of the tour, grew into his role as ringmaster for the afternoon, throwing in quirky tales of Fred — such as the time he fired an arrow into the estate behind the yard to work out how deep his mineshaft could be — and of his own mishaps since taking on the impressive property.

The centre, which will be open to pre-booked £12 tours every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday, has the backing of Fred’s widow Sheila.

She said: “I am delighted and relieved with what Leon and Jan have done because had someone else come along, they could have broken up the various pieces and ruined the legacy.

Fred spent 38 years working in this yard and it is just a magical place to be. It feels like Fred is here and I hope it is a real success.”

After conducting his first tour, a beaming Leon looks quite rightly pleased with the last 12 months work, despite experiencing some testing times.

He said: “I am really pleased. We had a fully booked tour today and they seemed to enjoy it. We have worked very hard but it has been worth it and it is an ongoing project that we know will get better and better.”