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, he 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, he started his own business with 300 breeding ewes and their 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 he 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 his 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 25 years 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.
With continuous management, the aim is to encourage the return of more species which have been 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 sport is sheep dog trialling, and he has been competing since 1986. Shabden sheepdogs are supplied to farmers in many countries including Japan USA as well as all across Europe and is a recognised judge across Europe and North America, as well as hosting training clinics in Italy Poland and Switzerland. You'll often see him on the farm with his border collie sheepdogs, checking the sheep and cattle.
Click the link below to find out more about Mark's Sheep Dogs and the annual Shabden Park Continental Open Sheepdog Trial "Shabfest".