CELEBRATED author Richard Adams toasted his 90th birthday with a pint of ale in his “dear Whitchurch”.

The writer, who shot to fame aged 53 with his masterpiece Watership Down, was celebrating his new nonagenarian status at a party at the White Hart hotel, organised by Whitchurch Arts.

Over a pint, Mr Adams, of Church Street, Whitchurch, told The Gazette he much appreciated the gesture. He said: “The fact that all these people have come here for my 90th is deeply moving.

“I have lived here for more than 20 years and I can’t think of anywhere else I would like to live.”

Mr Adams was born in Wash Common, just outside Newbury, in 1920.

Originally a civil servant, he became an overnight success in 1972 after Watership Down was finally published following rejections from seven publishers. It has since sold over 50 million copies worldwide and never been out of print.

He is also the author of 19 other fictional and non-fictional works.

Despite reaching 90, Mr Adams insisted that by “no means” would he be giving up writing.

“I don’t have any ideas for another book, but when something occurs to me I will write,” he said. His gift with language was demonstrated when he delivered an improtu “Ode to Whitchurch” to his party guests, which referred to his deep-seated love of the town.

He said: “I floor my pints at Whitchurch bars. At Whitchurch tables eat my dinners and I gaze aloft at Whitchurch stars. Oh Whitchurch publicans and sinners rejoice with me, this place is ours.”

One of the guests, North West Hampshire MP Sir George Young, said: “It was great to pay tribute to this man because I am a great fan of his work.”

Mr Adams was also presented with a portrait of himself, painted by Whitchurch-based artist Steve Miller.