A CANCER survivor with a keen interest in gardening has expressed disgust after a town's 'in bloom' competition was cancelled because of a lack of entries.

Dennis Woodcock proudly entered his immaculate garden in Darlington in Bloom, only to receive a letter saying the event was no longer being held.

The 81-year-old former railway engineer has been in remission for six years, after being one of only a small number of men to be diagnosed with breast cancer.

Mr Woodcock says his garden is his 'pride and joy' and that tending it and entering competitions like Darlington in Bloom, gives him a focus in life.

He was angry to receive a letter from Darlington Borough Council, saying the event had been cancelled.

The long-running event was run by volunteers, supported by the council. It is hoped to re-launch it next year.

Mr Woodcock said: "I think it's disgusting that it's been cancelled.

"Even if there was only a small number of entrants, the competition is run by volunteers, so what was to stop them running the competition, or a version of it, anyway?

"It gives you an incentive in life, now it has just been flattened.

"The organisers do not know the feelings of people such as myself.

"My garden is the love of my life."

In a letter to Mr Woodcock, the council's head of environmental services Brian Graham said the number of entries received as 'significantly lower' than previous years.

Mr Graham said some categories had received just one entry each.

He wrote: "It is felt best that this year's awards are postponed, with a view to re-launching the competition next year, when it is hoped existing competitors will re-enter and new competitors are found."

Allannah Robinson, one of the volunteer judges who has helped to organise the event in recent years, struggled to explain why the numbers were so low.

She said: "Maybe the economic reality is hitting people and they can’t afford to spend money on their gardens.

“We will have to have a real rethink and see if it needs to be restructured and what we can do differently.

“It’s a real shame, because we had a good spring, so I’m sure people’s gardens are looking wonderful.”