Born in Middlesbrough in 1968, Simon’s parents moved to Suffolk in 1984 after the demise of Cleveland’s steel industry. This move triggered a fascination that had been started a few years earlier in his native North-East. Having always been interested in the countryside and natural world, Simon had the opportunity to fulfil his ambition to keep and work ferrets, as he was not satisfied ferreting with other people’s ferrets. At the age of fifteen, through his work experience on a market garden, Simon started his apprenticeship in ferreting that is still going strong to this day.
From a small rural Suffolk smallholding in Parham nr Wickham Market, Simon’s thirst for knowledge and experience deepened. Coming from, and growing up in a non-hunting family, it appeared outlandish that such a driven appetite could exist in someone for ferreting. Once relocated to a market garden I the outskirts of Lowestoft, a local shed builder built a hutch for Simons ferrets so he could keep them at work and later at home, Simon had this hutch for over twenty years.
The only dairy farm in his locality proved to be the learning grounds for his ferreting career. Old Bob the farmer, taught Simon the basics, taught him how to correct his mistakes gained on his ferreting days out, but when the dairy herd was disbanded, Simon’s hunting grounds moved on, for the better. The lanky young northerner used to pick up his Shooting News on his bicycle on his way to work, another landmark in his ferreting career. Who would have thought that years later he would be a features writer for the same magazine albeit under a new name of The Countryman’s Weekly?
With the beauty of hindsight, the eighties appeared to be a world away from the 21st century that we now live and hunt in. The naivety and exuberance of youth is a wonderful thing, but money had to be earned in order to survive. Simon left the horticultural world and soon became dazzled by the printing industry based in Lowestoft.
Starting off as a labourer, he soon built himself a successful career as a printer, but one thing marred his relationship with the fellow employees, his love for hunting and their lack of understanding for his world. Late nights or more to the fact, early mornings out with lurchers, long nets and the local hostelry ,ensured Simons strong opinions and unwillingness to change ensured that his career inside a factory was always destined to be short lived. After moving from several print companies for the usual wage increases, and gaining promotions to quality control manager at his final printing employer, Simon embarked on a life changing journey.
Simon changed not only his lifestyle, but more importantly, engrained the belief to chase the dream instead of copying the masses, and accepting the stereotypical, repetitive factory life existence. Never being the one to live to work as opposed to work to live, Simon took voluntary redundancy and used his money to train as a pest controller. From the outside he appeared a responsible house owner, but underneath he had the burning ambition that was light as a young teenager, to make a living from the land.
Since his move East, Simon had dreamed about making a living from catching rabbits, but the harsh reality of such a lifestyle meant that the nearest he could get to achieving this was to become a pest controller for a local family run business. Seduced like many others by the image of the pester, Simon soon realised that the professional pest controller spent more time on paperwork than eradicating pests. Gaining a BPCA diploma in pest control, Simon’s passion for ferreting soon interrupted and interfered with his professional career. Internal disagreements gave Simon the opportunity to finally fulfil his ambition, some say destiny. Under the auspice of Pakefield Ferrets, Simon started his own businesses.
In the years previous, dogs, ferrets and nets played an integral part of his life. Although Simon had hunted, shot and ferreted all over the UK, it was always the lure of the rabbit that enticed him. For many, ferreting was seen as the nursery ground for field sports, to which many never return; Simon has never left!
This was recognised during the countryside marches where Simon represented ferreting for the BFSS, Countryside Alliance and the Union of Country Sports Workers. The latter of which Simon organised a march from Norwich to London in 2001. Sadly, the Foot & Mouth outbreak robbed East Anglia of an historic event and the re-arranged march in London lacked the passion and commitment that was snowballing, building up to the cancellation due to the dreaded F&M.
Recognising the power of the written word, Simon started to write some short articles in the late nineties for several sporting magazines. Although not fully educated due to the move south, this didn’t stop the scribbling of a ferreter being published regularly, soon to be followed by the first of three books. Ferrets was written under a tree at Burghley horse trials in 1999, and self published in 2000. A simple black and white book written as a direct result of Simons frustrations caused by the portrayal of ferreters by showmen; this is what spurred on Simon to make another life changing step.
For several years Simon toured East Anglian events promoting ferreting and ferret welfare, but late in 2001, he decided to fulfil an ambition and start demonstrating at shows nationwide. Coinciding with disagreements at work over contracts, Simon decided to fulfil his ambition and professionally demonstrate ferreting during the summer at events, and control rabbits in the winter in Suffolk and Norfolk. Many dream of turning a hobby into a business, but the reality is, only a few are successful.
Of course, 2001 was a hard year; Foot & Mouth ensured a lot of events were cancelled but at least this gave Simon the opportunity to book plenty of events for 2002. Since his first nervy demonstration at a Countryside Alliance Newmarket race day in front of Channel 4’s cameras, Simon has become ferreting’s premier demonstrator in the UK.
At present the writings and opinions of Simon can be seen regularly seen and read in the Countrymen’s Weekly and Shooting Times magazine, the title bestrode to him of “The Ferret Man” gave him the titles for his successful DVD collection. Inspired by a comment made by a close friend Paul, Simon was the first to commercially build and sell bowback ferret carrying boxes, a design used by the warreners of the past, copied by the world and his dog since.
In 2001 Ferrets-Taking their work and welfare was written, produced and published by Simon. A small coloured book about ferreting.
In 2005, Grace Calvert-Whitehead was born, a wonderful shock to the system but her birth and the dismal help and support given to parents in this country propelled Simon to make sure his different companies are successful, whether managing rabbits in the winter or “rabbiting” on about ferreting during many of his demonstrations seen at the premier events across the UK.
In 2010, his third book, Ferreting- An Essential Guide (Crowood press), was launched along with another ferret man DVD entitled “Working Days”.
Simon has participated in, along with working closely with all the sporting organisations in road shows and technical help and advice throughout the year. Not content with demonstrating how to harvest rabbits, Simon has been helping re-kindle Britain’s taste for rabbit by helping and demonstrating the values of eating wild rabbit once again.
Along with being a regular columnist for the Shooting Times & Country Magazine, Simon’s skills and services are in great demand throughout the year whether it is controlling rabbits, demonstrating at events or giving talks about ferrets, ferreting or promoting rabbit as wild game and thus a valuable and sustainable food source.
Away from his own writing, Simon has been featured in the national press in printings such as The Daily Mail, The Daily Express, The Independent and The Sunday Times. Complimenting this Simon has also featured in the more localised papers The East Anglian Daily Times and The Eastern Daily Press and their respective weekend magazines.
In 20017 Simon was a finalist in The Monocular hunting film festival, and at the Northern Shooting Show in 2018, the DNA film festival was launched and Simon won the “highly Commended” award for his film, “Ahead of the Game” . The name was the same as his book which was produced and quickly sold out the same year. Simon is now working on the sequel.
His writing was also seen in European magazines such as “Pursuits International” and “Hunt magazine” and the Countryside Alliances magazine. Such is the extent of knowledge, Simon was chosen to be included in Country Life‘s animal magic series and adorned two pages the magazine in October 2019.
Over the last few years Simon has been the focus of 7 rabbiting related DVDs and filmed/edited and produced From Field to Fork outlining the journey in preparing and cooking rabbit and his latest film, “Run Rabbit Run”. Most recently he has appeared on Fieldsports Britain, ITV’s Countrywise programme with Mike Robinson, BBC 4’s This Green and Pleasant Land, Jimmy’s Forest and Food Unwrapped on Channel 4 with Jimmy Doherty and the BBC’s Great British Food Revival with the late Clarissa Dickson Wright. Simon has also been involved in a advisory capacity on several news items and programmes such as BBC’s The One Show. His most recent jaunt on the television was on BBC 4’s Britain’s Lost Masterpieces in 2019.
With the winters booked up along with the summer shows, as time ticks away it is inevitable that more of Simons works and influences will be seen, heard, read about or witnessed across not only the UK but the world!