Guide and Illustrated Natural History
Walks & Talks
In the late 1980's I moved to Cumbria for about 12 yrs. Back home in Brighton, both my parents were elderly and to a great extent immobile so I tried to cheer them up by writing regularly with nature notes from my adventures in the Lake District.
I brightened the envelopes with colourful stamps wrote from the heart but hiding the grief that I felt about their predicament. When they were both very unwell I returned to live with them as a carer and upon their passing I rediscovered my letters in my mother's bedside table. There are some fascinating natural history tales in here, little known or heard of by most!
I wrote my first book,
'Rothesay bottles' - Treasure from the Isle of Bute,
not for fame and fortune but simply to record what myself and my pal
John Brown, were doing and what we were finding.
I self published, gave a few copies to the local museum, library and
to some friends, then forgot all about it.
However, my interest in digging up and collecting old bottles snowballed
and three more books followed. Several years later I finished writing on that subject with a comprehensive work entitled 'Bottle Digging Adventures'
I still regularly write articles in the two quarterly UK magazines;
Antique Bottle Collector and British Bottle Review, and I still often find old Victorian dumps on my travels, but my real passion is the natural world.
I wrote and dedicated 'Source to Sea' to my daughter when I was in my 50's and when she was just 5yrs old. To show her, when she was old enough,
just exactly who I was.
Three smaller works came from within it.
If you would like to preview or perhaps buy any of them simply go to;
"Kind words Alex, thank you.
Below is a page from that book that might set the scene and say
a little bit more about me..."
* The drawing of the little 'Samlet' by Mick Loates was a commission,
one of many, for the reprint of
Henry Williamson's book 'A Clear Water Stream'.
'Mickie' very kindly gave the original to me for my birthday in 2016.
'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
*BBC Radio Sussex serialised the book and conversations with Steve over a week after he had been asked to teach roving reporter Simon Jenkins to catch a Mackerel live on air.
Not only did he succeed in the give 20 minute slot but he also hot smoked one for Simon
who had never fished nor eaten fish. It was a success that comically earned
Steve the nickname 'The Guru'
"Some have described the above as a 'poem' but the truth is I didn't really know what I intended to write, it simply pored out of my head through an old pen onto a scrap of paper the moment I got home from finally finding a fabulous shoal of Salmon in a crystal clear, kingfisher blue tinted pool the Lake District.
Everything was perfect, the 2nd week in November, heavy rain on the full moon high tide, I watched them leap over the first weir at Workington by the sea, I guessed what their travelling speed might be, took a deep breath and made my calculation, They should go past my house at Grange in Borrowdale overnight. Next morning I slipped camouflaged and silently into 'The Jaws of Borrowdale' at dawn, like a 'Will o' the Wisp'. It's a tight squeeze in the valley with sleep rugged mountains either side blotting out the sun, with a densely wooded floor that the river Derwent passes through. I had spent three years living in Cumbria without much more than a glimpse of the Atlantic Salmon but this time with my grandfather's words in my ears;
"One can never hope to know a piece of water and the creatures therein by merely looking at it, first you must learn to be part of it"
This time I was ready, and there they were! A hundred or so 'bars of silver' laying alongside the grassy bank of the pool on the same side as me, but not as I had imagined! With still a long way to go to get to their spawning ground one might expect them to be facing upstream, and also head first into the flow so as to be able to breath. But they were facing back down river? It was then that I did indeed learn to be part of it. I realized that, to save energy and take a break in their long journey, they lay in the gentle circular eddy that all good pools have, safely out of harms way tight against the bank facing back from whence they had come. Their heads were in the gentle reverse flow, bringing pure unpolluted oxygenated water from the granite peaks above. They yawned and they rolled and they took turns to be head of the shoal like geese in flight, the others in their slipstream. And there I was with them, soaking wet oilskins, flat on my belly, no food nor drink, no phone nor camera, no sound, no movement, even breathing in a whisper, my head just inches above them, still as a Heron, transfixed".
"My Grandfather taught me, but most of us instinctively know, what is right and wrong about the recent foraging fashion; to take for oneself and also take extra to resell for profit to the detriment of our delicately balanced world. Greed must be avoided at all costs. Responsible and sustainable foraging is essential and your reward will be immeasurable wellbeing. Advising all from children to adults, city dwellers, to country folk, loners to restaurant owners is an important part of who I am and what I want to do. In particular, I'm often contacted to recommend appropriate accompaniments to wild food i.e. Roasted salty Sea Purslane with with fried slices of giant puff balls that grow next to each other on the river bank.
This little book is an introduction to a fabulous way of eating, and indeed living." SJH
Fisherman, naturalist, gillie and guide.
Fishing tackle manufacturer;
Richard 'Dicky' Routledge
This fellow was known worldwide in the 1800's. The great grandfather of my work college, inventor of one of the world's most famous trout flies, The Ghost Moth.
He was somehow forgotten, literally lost in time.
His funeral in Carlisle was said to be the largest ever known there. This book will, I'm sure, be of the greatest interest to the entire world of
Trout fly tiers, tackle makers and fishermen.
A fantastic collection of his stories and testimonies from the world press at the time of his passing away