TRIBUTES have been paid to a hardworking and dedicated farmer who has died at the age of 87.

Lawrence Walker owned farms in Croft and Dalton-on-Tees, near Darlington, for more than 70 years.

After moving from Pateley Bridge, in Nidderdale, in 1942, he and his family took over Birch Springs Farm, near Dalton-on-Tees, before taking on the nearby Portobello farm in 1945.

As the two farms were either side of the former Croft Aerodrome – now Croft Circuit - the family had to contend with the noise and disruption of living and working less than 100 yards away from the airfield, which was used as a bomber base during the Second World War. Throughout the war Mr Walker also served as a Home Guard.

In 1951 he met his future wife, Betty Pearson, from the nearby Vince Moor East farm, who he later married in 1953. The couple set up home in Portobello and went on to improve the farm by growing various crops, expanding the dairy herd, and herds of cattle and sheep, which were bred and reared on the farm.

His son David said: “My father was a quiet chap but he lived for the land. He and my mother took over Portobello and completely transformed it.”

Mr Lawrence died peacefully at his home on January 7 and leaves behind his wife of almost 60 years, Betty, 86, four children, David, John, Graeme, and Kathleen, eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

His funeral was held at St Peter’s Church, in Croft, on Monday, January 14 and a collection was taken for both the church and The Alzheimer’s Society.

His family would like to thank the staff at The Alzheimer’s Society and social services for their help throughout Mr Lawrence’s life.