A LOYAL groundsman renowned for his "excellent attitude" and being "enormously popular" is retiring after 49 years of service at Salisbury Racecourse.

Michael Simmonds is leaving the Netherhampton ground after just shy of half a century

on Monday, a day before he celebrates his 65th birthday.

Simmonds has never looked back after joining the Bibury Club as a trainee groundsman in 1966, as a 15-year-old.

Since then, he's worked on more than 680 racedays and completed in excess of 115,000 hours of mowing, strimming, preparing and repairing the course before and after racedays, cleaning, plumbing and other general maintenance duties.

Simmonds, who lives in Wilton, said: "I came up to look around one day back in 1966 and I've stayed here ever since. I have lots of memories and I will enjoy popping back from time to time to see everyone."

His contribution to the sport of horse racing was recognised in this year's annual Racecourse Association awards when he won the "Lifetime Achievement in Racing" category.

He will be presented with a memento by the Racecourse Association on a race day when racing returns next May.

At the final raceday of 2015, on October 12, a race was staged in Michael's name and after the race, in the winners' enclosure, he was joined by staff and directors who gave him a much deserved rousing ovation.

Jeremy Martin, clerk of the course and executive director, is rewarding Simmonds for his dedication with an annual badge to the racecourse.

"Michael has always been enormously popular with both groundstaff and office staff, past and present," said Martin.

"He has always had an excellent attitude and been very dependable and hard working. He will be greatly missed but will be given an annual badge so he can visit us on racedays whenever he wants. There are not many people who work 49 years for the same company, and we will also be making a special presentation to him, in recognition of his long service."