A FRIENDLY bachelor who worked as a gardener at Blenheim Estate for nearly half a century has died, at the age of 67.

Michael Woodward trimmed hedges and weeded flowerbeds across the vast grounds of Blenheim Palace in Woodstock for 45 years.

Described as someone who "would do anything for anyone", he lived in Bladon for most of his life and had a passion for the outdoors.

Michael Woodward was born on November 17 1948 in Reading to parents Cyril and Beryl Woodward.

He was the eldest of four, with sister Ann and brothers Alfie and William.

When he was five, the family moved to Bladon and a young Mr Woodward was sent to special schools Woodeaton Manor and then Ryton Hall in Shropshire, now known as Ryton House, as he suffered learning difficulties.

He lived at Ryton until he was 15 and then started work straight away as a gardener for Blenheim Estate in Woodstock, where he then stayed for 45 years until retirement.

He would spend his days mowing the lawn, trimming hedges and looking after the flowerbeds.

His sister Ann said her brother loved the outdoors and immensely enjoyed fishing, cycling and helping people in the village with their own gardens.

Mr Woodward lived in Bladon until 2005, when he then moved to live in Woodstock with his brother William.

He retired from his role as gardener at Blenheim at the age of 60, but his passion for gardening stayed strong well into retirement and he would still help neighbours and friends maintain their own flowerbeds.

He never married or had children.

His siblings described Mr Woodward as a friendly and jolly man, and said he was "quite a character". His sister Ann said a nurse who knew her brother told her he would "do anything for anyone".

When he was not experiencing the outdoors, Mr Woodward liked a game of bingo and a flutter on the horses.

He died at the age of 67 after suffering a blood clot on the lung.

He is survived by younger siblings Ann, Alfie and William.

His funeral service was held at Oxford Crematorium yesterday at noon.