A FARMER who has lived in Ryedale all his life has written a memoir, charting both the events of his life and the changes seen by his community at Sheriff Hutton.

Eric Weightman, 83, was born at Mill Hill Farm, in Sheriff Hutton, in January 1932. He grew up on the farm and, aside from a short period after he got married, he has lived there his whole life. That is, until earlier this year, when he moved to another home in the village. It was this change that prompted him to write down his story.

He enlisted the help of friend Barbara Jones to help with the endeavour. Ms Jones spoke of her surprise: "He came to me one day and said - 'I've got something to say. Would you help me write a book?'"

They worked together for many months, with Mr Weightman dictating and Ms Jones typing.

Mr Weightman said: "It was all in my head. I had no diary written or anything. It was just memories. It wasn't a challenge - it was all in there."

The book begins in the early 1900s, with the marriage of Mr Weightman’s grandparents at Sheriff Hutton church. It sketches out their lives, and those of his parents, and life as farmers in the 20th century. It tells stories of his childhood, a rural upbringing where he helped on the farm and worked in the fields. It includes his marriage to his wife Ruth, almost scuppered when he had to have his appendix removed on their second date.

Farmers would take their ponies and traps into York. Mr Weightman writes: "Fortunately these ponies knew their own way home as the farmers, after a day at the market and a night in the hostelry, didn’t."

The Second World War looms large in the book, with even this quiet corner of Ryedale being touched by the conflict. War broke out and a small force of Local Defence Volunteers, who would go on to be called the Home Guard, was formed. They were issued with rifles. On a practise manoeuvre, a rifle went off and one man was shot and killed.

In another incident, a Halifax bomber crash-landed in a field. Five of the crew members risked their lives to rescue the sixth from the burned-out wreckage, heated up bullets firing off in all directions. Mr Weightman recalls how in the wake of the crash, a Canadian soldier stationed at Sheriff Hutton mysteriously drowned.

Mr Weightman describes how the area was used by the army to practise tank manoeuvres. After the tanks had gone, "the farmers were left with the task of removing the battle scars from their land."

The book is also about Sheriff Hutton itself, and the farming community there, as well as the hunting which was popular. Mr Weightman recounts meeting Prince Charles, and how one house nearby was briefly, surprisingly home to one Robbie Williams. He also paints a picture of farming practises and a way of life long gone.

"Farming can't change as much again in the next 80 years as it has done in the last 80," he said. "It's impossible."

The book has been published and is on sale now. Ms Jones, reflecting on the writing experience, added: "It's been good. I shall miss it."

"I feel very privileged to have spent the majority of my life at Mill Hill Farm, being able to work outdoors along with nature," Mr Weightman says in the book’s closing pages. "Older people talk about the good old days, and I must admit that, for me, they were."