A RETIRED Royal Mail manager’s garden has been named the second most popular tourist attraction in the county.
Green-fingered Geoff Stonebanks’s garden in Bishopstone, near Seaford, is now second only to the famous Seven Sisters chalk cliffs among local visitor attractions on travel site TripAdvisor.
Mr Stonebanks, 63, took up gardening seven years ago after taking early retirement and quickly discovered he had a knack for getting things to grow and flourish.
The garden is now home to up to 1,500 different types of plants and attracts thousands of paying visitors a year.
Mr Stonebanks has also raised more than £74,000 for Macmillan from the proceeds of opening the gardens at weekends each summer.
He said: “Some of the comments that have been made on TripAdvisor have been really lovely.
“It is always so nice when you realise people like it just as much as you do. I always get a lot of satisfaction when people come to see it because it helps the garden come alive.
“Since we’ve been on TripAdvisor we’ve had people come in because they were in the area on holiday, spotted the garden on the site and decided to come and have a look.
“It has certainly attracted a lot of interest.
“Obviously going on TripAdvisor is a bit of a risk because there is the chance of some negative comments going up but so far people have been very nice and complimentary.”
Working on the garden is a real labour of love for Mr Stonebanks and he and his partner usually have to take their annual holiday in the winter because he has to stay to maintain the plants during the summer months.
He said: “It certainly takes up all my time. It’s a small space but there is a lot in it and it is a lot of work. It is definitely worth it though.
“I’m working harder now than I did before I retired and I’m a nervous wreck whenever I go away and leave it.”
Mr Stonebanks’ garden will be featured on the BBC’s Gardener’s World next month after a team from the show recently came down to film him.
He is also shortlisted for the show’s annual Garden of the Year competition.
The results of the competition will be revealed in November.
His records show he has had almost 14,000 visitors since 2009 – and sold 5,550 portions of cake.
Mr Stonebanks also spends about £2,500 a year on new plants.
He has a wide variety of different types but among his favourites are the fuchsias he took from his late father’s garden. He now has about 15 or16 types of the plant.
For more details visit geoffstonebanks.co.uk.