Champion vegetable grower Noel Kitchen died on Boxing Day – the day of his 65th birthday.

For the past two decades Noel, who lived in Fell Lane, had been one of the most successful competitors in flower and veg shows across Bradford district.

In the past couple of years, despite suffering ill-health, he enjoyed success in competitions across Yorkshire and Lancashire.

Noel’s long-time friend and fellow grower, Mick Cunning-ham, this week paid tribute to him as a “fearless competitor”, who was always willing to help other people.

Noel was born in Bradley and continued to live in the village after marrying wife, Pat. The couple moved to Steeton while Noel was working as a weaving overlooker at Fletcher’s mill in Silsden.

With children Michelle and Lee, the couple spent several years living in Nigeria, where Noel worked as a weaving manager.

After returning to England in the 1980s Noel first worked at Peter Black, then became a transport manager with parks maintenance company, Glendale.

Pat this week paid tribute to her husband’s caring nature, especially in the way he carried out gardening for neighbours who were unable to do it themselves.

She said: “He was always thinking of other people.”

Mr Cunningham, a leading member of the Keighley in Bloom committee, added Noel caught the gardening bug in the early 1990s after talking to fellow grower, John Oxley.

Mr Cunningham said: “Noel was a competitive fella and thought he’d enter a few of the local shows.

“He soon became a fearless competitor. People would look at show schedules, and if Noel entered then they’d go home!”

Mr Cunningham said Noel was definitely one of the top local growers, with regular success in contests at Addingham, Cononley, Haworth, Harden, Ilkley and Wilsden, as well as Keighley Show.

He added: “Noel went out of his way to help anyone – sweeping the road, helping his neighbours, giving advice to other people growing things.”

Noel also leaves behind four grandchildren, Liam, Jamie, Jessica and Eliza.