Villagers made a surprise delivery to their popular postman on the eve of his retirement.

Residents of Houghton clubbed together to collect £915 for postie Paul Geary, which they presented to him at party held in his honour at The Boot pub on Sunday night of last week.

There was also special cake in the shape of red postal van, made by village baker Fiona Evans.

Paul, who retired on is 65th birthday on Tuesday, thought he was joining a handful of villagers at the pub for a farewell drink but found more than 60 people there ready to give him a rousing send-off after 26 years delivering their mail.

He admitted to being touched and surprised by the turnout and said: “It’s nice when people turn out to say thank you – there were a lot of people there I would have never have expected to see.”

One of the organisers of the event, Maureen Stephens, said: “Paul is a lovely man. Always ready to stop for a chat.”

The postman, whose rural round also included Bossington, Horsebridge, Brook and Compton, was presented with a card filled with tributes.

Philip and Jean Cooper Moran wrote: “ Paul has always been the most cheerful person I have come across in Royal Mail or postal services generally. He also goes an extra mile for his contacts on the round and has the important local knowledge and sense of community that used to be valued in Royal Mail national post. We will miss Paul, and wish him well for his next stage in life.

Tara Scougall from Barn Store Stockbridge a local self storage business said: “Paul always went the extra mile with a smile to help local businesses.”

The Stephens family said: “A first class postman, always keen to help – over and above his job description!”

Paul, who was born and brought up in King’s Somborne but now lives in Andover, comes from a family of Royal Mail employees.

His mother, Beryl, was the postwoman in King’s Somborne and his Auntie Gladys and sister, Heather, were also postwomen.

However, neither of his two sons have followed in his footsteps.

Paul said he was looking forward to his retirement as although he loved his job and liked his workmates, he said the Royal Mail was no longer a “happy ship”.

“They are trying to cram a quart into a pint pot, with more deliveries and less hours to do them in,” he said.

“They don’t care about Joe Public anymore.”