A poet beat more than 10,000 people in a national award – after composing verse at the bottom of his garden.

Ian Pindar, of Lammas Close, Abingdon, scooped second prize in the National Poetry Competition, after honing his entry in his garden shed.

The 40-year-old originally wrote the poem, entitled Mrs Beltinska in the Bath, five years ago. But over the years it has changed almost beyond recognition.

At an awards ceremony in London last week, The Poetry Society rewarded the father-of-two with an award and a £1,000 cheque.

Mr Pindar, who writes for The Guardian and The Times Literary Supplement, said: “My poems generally take a long time but nothing else I’ve written has taken five years.

“I write something, then decide it’s not very good and revise it, or sometimes they get thrown away.

“Thankfully I stuck at this one and am very proud of the award.”

The poem is set in the Czech capital Prague and describes Pavel, who spies through the keyhole of a woman having a bath.

It was originally based in Africa, and the woman being spied on was an African priestess. With the setting changed, Mr Pindar was able to reference the floods suffered in the city in 2002.

He said: “I love Prague. I think it’s a mysterious place and you get a special feeling walking down the streets.

“People ask me what the poem is about, and I say it means what they want it to mean.

“The reason I love poetry is because it is ambiguous – there is mystery there.”

He added: “I like writing in my garden because it’s where I get all my work done.

“I get a break from the noise of the house and can get away.”

Mr Pindar discovered he wanted to be a poet at the age of 15 when he won his first poetry award.

He went on to study English at Oxford University’s Lady Margaret Hall, and has worked as an editor for a number of publishers.

In 2003 he moved to Abingdon with his family.

He said: “I’d like to push my poetry career. I’m aware it doesn’t make a lot of money but, who knows, maybe I could be the next Poet Laureate!”

Mr Pindar’s debut collection, Emporium, will be in the shops and online in May 2011.

MRS BELTINSKA IN THE BATH Pavel in profile His eye at the spy-hole watches Mrs Beltinska in the bath.

Steam from the spy-hole rises and unravels in the dark cold apartment at his back, where a TV with the sound down shows the River Vltava bursting its banks.

And as Prague’s metro floods and the Malá Strana floods and the Waldstein Palace floods and the National Theatre floods and the Kampa Modern Art Museum floods, Mrs Beltinska sinks her treasures in the suds.

The first Czech bible (1488) is drowned in sewage water, but the warm orange glow from Mrs Beltinska’s bathroom coming through the spy-hole gives an odd kind of halo to Pavel’s head seen from behind.