Old sports gear, broken deck chairs and broken toilet seats are among the bizarre items kept in garden sheds, according to a new report.

Old tools, rusty bikes and old bird food are also to be discovered in the garden hideaways.

The Shed'onomic report, marking the start of the annual Shed Of The Year competition, sponsored by Cuprinol, finds that more than 21 million people in the UK now own a shed.

Nearly three quarters (71%) are hoarding useless items in them, with nearly a third (32%) admitting their shed is so messy they can barely get through the door.

However, it is not all junk that is being stored - the shed has really become an extension of the home, with the average shed-owner filling it with contents worth more than £458.

Some 32% have electricity, 41% have heating and lighting, allowing them to house expensive game consoles (6%), TVs (7%), a sofa (5%) and 3% even have a sunbed.

Nearly a third (30%) will use the shed to hide items from their partner, such as presents. Some 5% admit to using it to partake in sexual activities, while 12% use their shed to get away from their partner, and 9% revealed it is the preferred place to make secret phone calls.

Examples of exotic sheds entered in the competition include a "Japanese Tea House" from Cold Norton in Chelmsford, Essex, a "Pirate Retreat" from Croydon and "Ballroom" from Keyworth in Nottinghamshire.

Top five useless items kept in sheds:

:: 1. Old tools (77%);

:: 2. Rusty bikes (39%);

:: 3. Old house furniture (34%);

:: 4. Broken deck chairs (34%);

:: 5 Old sports gear (33%).

Most unusual items people admitted to having in their sheds:

:: 1. Ex-husbands' old possessions;

:: 2. Mannequins;

:: 3. Old bird food;

:: 4. A stuffed owl;

:: 5. Punctured paddling pools;

:: 6. False teeth;

:: 7. School memorabilia;

:: 8. Hamster cages;

:: 9. Cassette tapes;

:: 10. Broken toilet seats.

:: Cuprinol commissioned research agency Fly Research last month to study the shed behaviour of 1,500 shed owners in the UK.

What do you keep in your garden shed? Let us know in the Comments below.