Guide and Illustrated Natural History
Walks & Talks
Welcome to Steve's website
Here you can learn more about Steve and his work,
buy his photographs, books and greetings cards.
Treat yourself, or gift someone
an illustrated Walk & Talk.
One to One or group nature walks
Planned subjects or customised to your own interests.
_ _ _
'Fifty years with a camera'
Fishing, foraging and nature watching
"By coincidence, the subtitle of a book
Steve wrote for his daughter.
This extraordinary fellow's journey through Britain, and indeed life, is an inspiration.
From press, radio and television to
photo exhibitions to guided walks & talks.
If you want to know Steve, take a moment to
read a few clips from his book,
'Source to Sea'
the cover of which, is the background photo
on this page."
Michael J. Loates Artist/Illustrator
I was born in Brighton, southern England, but as an adult in 1987 I moved north to the
Cumbrian Lake District after reading a book called 'Nature Detective' - by Hugh Fulkus.
The legendary fellow and I met shortly after my arrival by complete accident, we were both in Cockermouth post office at the same time buying a Salmon & Sea Trout Licence.
I subsequently spent twelve years exploring a totally different world to the one I grew up in,
and on my return to Sussex I was compelled to record just about all of it in a book;
'Source to Sea' and three other smaller works.
Occasionally I might take a fish for supper but I use my camera to 'catch' fish now!
My good friend, wild life Artist Michael Loates, and a work college, film writer Anita Ward said, after listening to countless tales of adventure; " For goodness sake write a book!"
'Micky' very generously helped by illustrating my book with his paintings, famous in their own right in the well known publications; Collins 'FISH' of Britain and Europe
and the reprint of Henry Williamson's 'Salar the Salmon', to name just two.
I hope you might like what I have written and what I aim to do here with this website.
I very much look forward to meeting new friends, naturalists and like minded people. SJH
This is my Grandfather on my mother's side, Harold Victor Mason
with a very large flatfish he caught in Newhaven Harbour c1950
He was known to most as 'Billie' a name given to him by his friend Rudyard Kipling who thought him, his diminutive size and his
story of being lost in a far away land, was like that of the character Billie Fish in Kipling's tale ' The man who would be King.'
During WWII he was stationed in Africa and spent 2 years with an
indigenous group of nomadic Pigmies who taught him to hunt, forage and be part of nature responsibly and sustainably.
Thereafter he always wore a suit and tie when fishing to remind himself to be as respectful as possible when taking the life of
another creature in order to feed himself and his family.
When I was just 10 years old he woke me very early one morning to go look for a legendary Pike with sharp pointy teeth that lived in the stream beyond the woods, across the field, at the back of his house in Bognor Regis.
What I was about to experience was completely new to me, another world that I had no idea existed, it changed my life and made me who I am today.
I dressed as fast as I could and we passed through the back door into the 4am darkness of a summer's dawn. The air was heavy with scents of damp earth, wet grass, honeysuckle blossom, and all enveloped by a cathedral of bird song. "Talk if you must" Grandad said. "but in a whisper, or you'll break the spell of the magic hour." I stood speechless for a moment.
"Don't just listen to things, 'hear them' and don't just look at things, 'see' them" he said.
Those words were etched into my mind.
We crossed the field towards the trees under a dark royal blue star studded sky.
The woodland floor was almost the same! A carpet of Bluebells studded with white anemones. "Roll your feet gently as you walk so as not to make a sound" he said.
"Slowly slowly, catchy monkey"
The sky had lightened a little and my eyes adjusted as we reached the far side of the wood.
Out in the water meadow yet another fantastic scene. A sea of ground mist, purply pink from the coming sunrise. Cows, seemingly with no legs, 'floating' on the mist. The moment is still hard to describe but at the time I said it all by just a facial expression to Grandad. He paused, then nodded for me to look to my left, a fence post not ten feet away, it had eyes! A fabulous barn owl sat there, almost a part of the sun bleached wood, it's eyes staring straight into my brain.
It turned, leaned forward and dropped, with wings open, into the pink 'sea' and outward, the tips of its wings flicking up little spirals of the mist. My life was changed forever.
We never did see the giant Pike but I think that might just have been a trick
to lure that little boy me, out of my bed.
Fairy Glen, Stonethwaite beck, Cumbria.
I risked my life for this photo of a Salmon.
Plunging fully clothed into the ice cold water in December.
But I just had to get it!
Not a typical day by anyone's standards but this is how I spend most of my time, sometimes just a short distance from other folk but seeing things that might as well be a thousand miles away from them.
I now live back in Sussex where I was born, and have settled in Lewes next to
the Railway Land Nature reserve by the River Ouse.
Half way between Lewes and the sea at Newhaven, is an old swing bridge
at Southease in the Southdowns National Park. I spend a lot of time here with my camera.
Here's a little winter movie from there.
I was invited by the Sussex group 'Greenhavens' to have a stall at the their annual event in the Port of Newhaven to advertise my
guided natural history walks & talks and
to display some of the extraordinary
'Inside the wave view' photographs
that I took of the local Mackerel & Whitebait
This one of a Mackerel (right) surfing the wave full of
Whitebait is my favourite.
Christmas Eve 2021
Volunteering again for the Ouse and Adur Seatrout spawning watch team I was able to film a pair of these elusive fish spawning on the first day they were noted on my stretch, just before 'rain stopped play' and the river was in a spate again, thick with dirt runoff and the last chance of the year.
"Merry Christmas all"
( Natural History)
1985 - My first Photo exhibition was in Shoreham by Sea
where I highlighted the flora & fauna of a man made 'corridor'
The old railway line from Shoreham to Beeding cement works
made a unique connection from the
South Downs chalkland habitat to the tidal estuary
adjacent to a SSSI shingle beach and brackish lagoon.
Consequently, I was invited by Adur District Council to form the
Adur District Conservation Society
and was voted chairman and task officer.
1987 - Having moved to the Cumbrian Lake District
I completed a course in Nature Conservation and Management
run by Newcastle University in Keswick.
After a second photo exhibition in Carlisle Museum on the colour variations of individual Adders on the Solway Peat Bogs,
I took a 'further education' course also via Newcastle university,
on Peat bog formation and Biodiversity
In the 1990's I hand reared and released Barn Owls into the wild.
The chicks were excess to requirements at the
Muncaster Castle Birds of Prey Centre.
I sourced, and was granted for the purpose,
a rough meadow habitat with
a healthy population of Short tailed voles
and an empty old barn and suitable owl nesting box
by Lord Rochdale on his Lingholm estate at Portinscale,
on the western shore of Derwentwater, near Keswick.
2012 - I was invited by the South Devon Natural History Society to give a slideshow talk (my first of many),
on my lifetime's experiences nature watching.
I was introduced by wildlife artist and author, Michael Loates,
who subsequently became a good friend and fishing buddy.
'Mickie' kindly illustrated my book 'Source to Sea'
with his spectacular paintings
2013 - I was invited to take part in an Environment Agency
netting and recording species survey in the R. Adur
back at Shoreham- by sea.
2014 - I became a volunteer Sea Trout spawning recorder for
The Ouse & Adur Rivers Trust in Sussex
which increased my fascination for photographing life
underwater rather than fishing.
2015/6 - I set about studying the mysterious annual spectacle of
Thin Lipped Grey Mullet at Lewes in the R. Ouse,
filming them underwater with a camera on a boom.
This lead to an appearance on BBC SPRINGWATCH
that I nicknamed 'A Murmuration of Mullet'
It was an unrecorded phenomena and lead to a series of
slideshow talks in the adjacent Railway Land Nature Reserve,
for which I was awarded a honorary lifetime membership.
2017 - I was asked by BBC RADIO SUSSEX to teach
roving reporter Simon Jenkins how to
catch a Mackerel, live on air. I succeeded and was then asked to chat on air about my book 'Source to Sea' which was serialised over a week from the BBC in Brighton. I am regularly asked to join live chats on BBC stations all over the UK
2018 - I was invited to stage a photo exhibition in Lewes
to highlight the natural History and views along the newly opened Egrets Way cycle and footpath along the River Ouse from
Lewes to Newhaven
in the newly formed South Downs National Park
2019 - Walks & Talks were requested by many individuals,
groups and organisation on a variety of subjects;
2020 - Covid restriction came into force but as they relaxed I was one of the first to arrange Covid safe Walks & Talks
and was employed by Newhaven Council
during the Newhaven festival to take three groups
out on Tidemills beach on the subject of The Living Shoreline
2021 - Commissioned by PhD student Esmeralda Pereira
at the Marine and Environmental Research Centre in Portugal
to obtain genetic samples, via catch and release,
of British catadromous Thin-lipped Mullet Chelon ramada
for studies of the migratory dynamic.
I was very pleased to have been accepted as a member of
The Tide Mills Project, between Newhaven and Seaford. From the shoreline to the railway line, the Mill and accompanying buildings were abandoned and destroyed ahead of the expected invasion of German forces in WWII
I have been asked to be a natural history guide alongside the historians during the celebrations in September.
Funded by the Lottery Heritage and the Southdowns National Park
Newhaven Town council invited me to do a series of
'Reconnect to Nature' Walk & Talks
for the public during the whole of September and October
as part of their Newhaven Festival
Brighton Council have also invited me to do similar
'The Living Shoreline'
as part of their October 2021
'Homeward Bound' Festival
I was invited as after business speaker
at Railway Land Wildlife Trust Lewes
Film maker Jack Perks & Cameraman Ross Birnie asked for my help in making a piece for their project; 'Britains Hidden Fishes'
Twitter - @RiverFishUk @JackPerksPhoto
I was invited to take 4 walks & talks via 'Visit Lewes' commissioned by Lewes District Council
I was invited by the Sussex group
'Fire and Wild'
to take regular Walks & Talks proceeding their fabulous
woodland feasts of game,
foraged fruit, vegetables and herbs.
- - -
Perhaps my most unusual walk & talk was actually a request to Paddle & Talk for a kayak club who nature watched from the water in the Cuckmere valley in the Southdowns National park
I was invited to take out 3 back to back
illustrated Walks & Talks
for the 'Love our Ouse'
As ever, I design my own posters
and photo packs for participants
I was asked to take a Walk & Talk for the public and to advise the developers on ecological impact, around and adjacent to the new Eco housing development at Lewes in the Southdowns National Park.
The Pheonix Human Nature project is something unique to this area and I'm extremely grateful to be able to contribute my local knowledge.