A MAN with a passion for agriculture who continued his interest in his job as a crop inspector even after his retirement has died aged 72.

Mike Walton, a former agronomist from Richmond, North Yorkshire, died unexpectedly after a short illness while on holiday in New Zealand in February.

He and wife Elaine were visiting his daughter Helen, her husband Alastair and grandchildren Laura and Ben when he was admitted to hospital after a fall and tests revealed that he had cancer.

A funeral service was held in New Zealand in February, followed by a memorial service in St Mary’s Church, Richmond, on Thursday, May 2, which was attended by friends and family and hundreds of members of the local farming community, among whom he was a well-known and popular figure.

Mr Walton worked at DKB Crop Protection, Walworth, near Darlington, and was almost part of the family on many farms, where he was advising the second - and even the third – generation.

He was born in Corbridge, Northumberland on November 21, 1940, and with his family moved to London aged 11, before moving to Malton, North Yorkshire, where his family took on a small-holding, sparking a life-long love of farming.

He met wife Elaine when he was 20 and she was 16, and they married four years later at St Peter’s Church, in Norton, Malton in 1965.

The couple had daughters Helen, in 1968, who lives in New Zealand with her family, and Emma in 1972, who lives in Perth, Australia with her husband Alex.

Mrs Walton said her husband was one of the few lucky people who looked forward to Monday mornings to go out to work, and was always staring at fields even when he was off duty.

“He would even stare out of the window when driving – which did worry me at times,” she joked.

“But he was very well known and respected in the area because he took such pride in his work and treated everyone the same, whether it was a large commercial farm or a small.”

Daughter Helen Murphy said: “When mum and dad went on holiday to Malta to celebrate their Silver Wedding anniversary they returned with about one picture of mum and dozens of pictures of crops and fields – which he proudly showed off to his colleagues.”

Mr Walton had been awarded Fellowship of the Institute of Corn and Agricultural Merchants, and had keen interests in fishing, bird-watching, and loved the outdoors.

Although he loved living in the Yorkshire Dales, Mr and Mrs Walton were planning to move to New Zealand to be closer to their daughters.

Mrs Murphy added: “He was the most jovial man you could have known and mum and dad were possibly even more in love after 48 years of marriage than when they started out together.

“He always had a smile on his face and we were fortunate and privileged to have had him in our lives. He will be very badly missed and will always be loved.”