Farmer Mark Banham has been
looking after sheep for over thirty years, ever since he helped
out on the neighbouring farm to his childhood home in a small Sussex
Mark had a keen interest
in natural history and wildlife during his childhood years, when
he looked forward each week to the local natural history club meeting,
and this developed into a passion for the traditional British countryside
and its natural inhabitants.
After working as a shepherd/stockman for several years, Mark decided
to pursue a career in farm management, undertaking a course at the
Surrey County Agricultural College, Merrist Wood. Upon his successful
graduation, Mark held several full shepherd positions, including
Head Shepherd of the Knepp Castle estate near Horsham, Sussex, which
carried 2200 breeding ewes plus a milking flock.
In 1989, Mark started his own business with 250 ewes and lambs,
and a contract fencing and shearing service. A few years later,
Mark spent 6 months working in New Zealand as a sheep shearer.
It was as a fencing contractor that Mark stumbled
upon Shabden Park Farm in 1994, when he was asked to quote for fencing
for the new farm and Countryside Stewardship Scheme. It was Mark's
first view of the Shabden valley which inspired him to apply for
the tenancy of the new farm, relishing the opportunity to create
and manage a traditional chalk downland farm, all the more worthy
for its proximity to London.
Mark came to Shabden Park Farm in 1995, bringing his flock and business
and, over the past 10 years, Mark has patiently and delicately restored
the traditional landscape of the Shabden estate and recreated the
diminishing chalk grassland habitats of many plants and animal species.
And with continuous management, we hope to encourage to return more
species lost from the area through intensive farming, and to sustain
this vulnerable piece of traditional countryside for quiet enjoyment
and promoting environmentally-sustainable farming.
Mark's great hobby is sheep dog trialling, and
he has been competing since 1986. Mark has bred and trained sheep
dogs and supplied them to farmers all over the country and is recognised
as a judge across Europe and America. You'll often see Mark on the
farm with his border collie sheepdogs, checking the sheep and cattle.