'Source to Sea'
Fifty years with a camera: fishing, foraging and nature watching.
"By coincidence, the title and 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 TV. Photographic exhibitions, guided walks & talks,
and now to this website.
If you want to know Steve, take a few moments to read a few clips from this book"
Michael J. Loates Artist/Illustrator
...and by the way, excerpts from the book were serialised over a week, along with recorded interviews with Steve,
on BBC radio Sussex after he taught reporter Simon Jenkins how to catch a Mackerel from the beach
and hot smoke it over fennel seeds, live on The Morning Show.
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.
I meet this legendary fellow 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.
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 and
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, like that of the character Billie Fish in Kipling's tale ' The man who would be King.'
During WWII he spent a couple of years in the Congo with a tribe of nomadic Pigmies in Africa with learnt to hunt, forage and be part of nature, sustainably and respectfully.
Thereafter he always wore a suit and tie when fishing to remind himself of that.
When I was just 10 years old he woke me very early one morning to go look for a legendary giant Pike with sharp pointy teeth that lived in the stream beyond the woods, across the field, at the back of his house in Bognor.
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 the man I am today.
I dressed as fast as I could and we passed through the back door into the 4am darkness of a spring 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 smell things, taste them." He said. "Don't just listen to things, hear them, and don't just look at things, see them." Those words were etched into my mind.
We crossed the field towards the trees under a dark royal blue cloudless morning sky.
The woodland floor was almost the same colour! 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 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.
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 and a couple of Summer photos to show you what an interesting place this is for anyone, especially a naturalist/photographer/fisherman.
CV ( 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.
That line made a unique connection from the
South downs chalkland habitat to the tidal estuary parallel to
a SSSI shingle beach and brackish lagoon.
Consequently was invited by District Council to form the
Adur District Conservation Society
and was voted chairman and task officer.
1990 - 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 variation of individual Adders on the Solway Peat Bogs, took a 'further education' course on Peat bog formation and biodiversity
In the mid 90's I hand reared and released Barn Owls.
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 Lingholme estate at Portinscale,
adjacent to Derwentwater, Keswick.
2012 - I was invited by the South Devon Natural History Society to give a slideshow talk (my first of now many), on my lifetimes experiences nature watching, introduced by world famous artist Michael J. Loates
who subsequently kindly illustrated my book 'Source to Sea'
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 life underwater.
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 centre, 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 did and since then I am regularly asked to join live chats on BBC stations all over the UK
re' anything 'fishy' and all things natural history.
2018 - I was invited to stage a photo exhibition in Lewes
to highlight the natural History and view along the newly opened Egrets Way cycle and footpath down the R.OUSE in the now
Southdowns Nation 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
I am to obtain genetic samples, via catch and release,
of British catadromous Thin lipped Mullet-chelon ramada
for studies of the migratory dynamic.
I am very please to have been accepted as a member of
The Tide Mills Project, between Newhaven and Seaford, from the shoreline to the railway line. A village abandoned and destroyed ahead of the suspected 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
watch this space...
Fishing has recently taken a back seat in preference to photography etc. but I do still take a supper now and then. I'm also hoping to help persuade others not to use plastic fishing tackle.
To that end I make spinners and spoons with beads of glass, pearls, semi-precious stones
and fossilised Baltic amber with Sterling Silver and 18k Gold plated blades.
Apart from the ecological issue I had watched and was greatly influenced by
a documentary film entitled 'Kiss the Water'
It was the story of the late Megan Boyd, Salmon fly tier extraordinaire.
Her fishing flies were works of art and I wanted to do something similar.
My lures accidentally worked like magic too, partly due to the design but also because
one does not want to loose such an exquisite piece of 'jewellery' and therefore
fishes with it more delicately, an action which makes them even more successful.
*message me for further info and look out for a separate website soon!