TELEVISION celebrities helped a fundraising event start successfully and raise thousands of pounds – before the weather took over.

Jim Buttress, known for his appearances on BBC Two’s The Big Allotment Challenge and Radio Sussex’s Dig It show, kicked off the seventh annual Macmillan coastal garden trail.

He turned up at organiser Geoff Stonebanks’s garden, Driftwood in Bishopstone, near Seaford, as the weekend of open gardens started on Saturday.

And Gogglebox star Chris Ashby Steed and his partner Tony welcomed visitors to a garden in Brighton.

Geoff said: “After the amazing heatwave in recent weeks it all fell apart, weather-wise, on the Saturday morning and all day Sunday with rain and high winds doing a lot of damage to the beautifully tended gardens on the trail.

“However the sun shone from opening time at 11am on the Saturday for the rest of the day and then the rain set in again for Sunday.

“Despite the bad weather more than £7,000 was raised for the Macmillan Horizon Centre in Brighton.

“That’s incredible.

“Many visitors enjoyed tea and cake on the Saturday in the sun but not so many in the rain on the Sunday.”

To assist him, Geoff welcomed Joelle Leader, director of volunteering at Macmillan Cancer Support, Seaford Mayor Linda Wallraven with her consort Liz Holland and Lewes MP Maria Caulfield, whose constituency includes Seaford.

The opening event was well attended with more than 50 visitors in the garden at the time.

Geoff said: “It never ceases to amaze me how supportive visitors can be, knowing how much effort has been put into preparing the gardens and baking the cakes.

“I’d like to thank, most sincerely all garden owners, volunteers and those who came along over the weekend.”

Jim Buttress signed many copies of his book during his visit.

Gill Weaver at 5 Old Coastguard Cottages at Cuckmere Haven had created many pieces of upcycled furniture to sell in her garden with more than £200 going to Macmillan.

Brighton and Hove Mayor Dee Simpson got into the party spirit and visited many of the Brighton gardens on the Saturday, including 70 Dale View, where ex Gogglebox star Chris was on hand to greet her with his dachshunds.

On Sunday, Nigel and Sue Napier braved the dreadful weather and completed their challenge of having seen all 24 gardens over the weekend.

After following the activities of Geoff’s garden on social media, they had travelled from Suffolk in 2017 and enjoyed the event so came back again this year to see all the gardens.

Nigel said “It was all worthwhile, despite the rain and Sue and I have picked up many ideas for our own plot.”

Anyone who missed the trail because of the weather can still donate via Geoff’s Macmillan Coastal Garden Trail Just Giving internet page.

Next year’s event is already being planned and will be taking place on July 27 and 28.

Contact Geoff Stonebanks on 01323 899296 if you are interested in opening your garden.