HE is described as a “living encyclopaedia” of a wellknown New Forest garden.

Since 1946, Jim Langford has worked in all manner of jobs at Exbury Gardens and more recently used his knowledge to guide people around the stunning estate.

But now aged 86 Jim is retiring after 66 years.

He said: “I have had a wonderful career at Exbury.

“For the last 20 years or so I have been taking visitors on tours of the garden, they seem to enjoy themselves and many take pictures of me as well as the blooms and forward them on.

“I know where all the trees are and don’t require a map to find them.

“I will take great pleasure in coming back to the gardens as a visitor and watching their progress, with interest and pride.”

Jim knows the 200-acre woodland gardens like the back of his hand.

He’ll tell his passengers stories of the naming of different parts of Exbury, including Witcher’s Wood, so-called because, way back in the 1920s, Lionel de Rothschild discovered it was the haunt of a family of charcoal burners, called Witcher.

Jim can name the rhododendrons and azaleas bred over the generations – and then remember many of the people after whom they are named.

Jim, who lives in Exbury village, built up his expert knowledge during his nearly seven decades at the estate.

He originally lived at Lepe Farm House with his late wife Sheila and their children, who attended the now closed Exbury Village School.

His tasks included driving tractors, keeping Jersey cows that provided butter, milk and cheese for the house as well as tending to sheep and poultry.

In his later years Jim overcame his trouble walking by using a mobility buggy to take tourists around, providing a knowledgeable and entertaining commentary as he went.

In 2011 Princes Charles presented him with a long-service award.

But while Jim is retiring his family associations with the gardens continue with his grandsons, Paul and Mark providing catering with their firm Amuse Bouche.