Michael has demonstrated that it is possible to mix business with pleasure, to work hard and play hard and to be successful at both. He is part renaissance man, part entrepreneur and someone who has done what many of us just dream about – made a rewarding and fulfilling career out of his love of travel. He always tells people as an 11+* failure he has made the most of his limited talents!
Michael was born and grew up in Bournemouth on England’s south coast and was the first member of his family to stay in school beyond 16, let alone go to university. He obtained degrees in Geography and Soviet Foreign Policy from University College London and SSEES, also part of the University of London. In 1972 he spent 6 months travelling overland through Asia to Australia where he arrived with $5 to his name with another $20 mailed by his mother waiting at the Post Office.
He spent the next five years included working as a prospector in north-western Australia and teaching Geography for four years at Australia’s prestigious Sydney Grammar school. He travelled extensively in Asia and the Pacific during his generous vacations and operated his own mail order company in the evenings.
After returning to England in 1979 Michael and his Canadian wife Sharron turned their enthusiasm and love of travel into a business and founded Casterbridge Tours, a Special Interest and Educational Tour Operator that subsequently became one of only a handful of travel companies to be awarded the Queens Award for Enterprise.
Over a period of 30 years as founder, CEO and Chairman of Casterbridge Tours Michael also served on the board of the British Incoming Tour Operators Association and lectured on Corporate Governance and the role of the Non Executive Director at the Institute of Directors in London. In his spare time he established a family property company that renovated and rebuilt old properties in the West of England.
In 2011 he sold Casterbridge Tours to one of the USA’s biggest travel companies and since that date he has managed the operations of Sherborne Cottages and managed his own gallery of mountain photography ‘The Global Images Gallery’ until both were sold to the Jackson – Stops group.
He is currently a Director managing his family property company which has accumulated a portfolio of commercial properties throughout the UK and in 2016 Michael acquired a shareholding in the specialist Tour Operator Kipling Tours shortly after it was formed. He has been the Chairman of what is now one of the UK’s leading educational Tour Operators since 2016.
Michael has a passion for and is a keen spectator of most sports and has spent at least a week at the French Open tennis for 13 of the last 15 years as well as attending recent World Cups in Germany and Brazil.
He has been a keen photographer all his life and has an abiding love for the High Mountains. Michael has made 15 visits to the Himalaya including five treks to the three sides of Everest. He spends each summer hiking in the Swiss Alps based in his beloved Murren and has walked to the summit of Kilimanjaro and to the Raphu La (21,500ft/6550m) on the eastern flank of Everest in Tibet, and always taking a compact camera! He has completed many of the World’s famous long distance hikes including The Tour Mt Blanc (twice), the Inca Trail and Canada’s gruelling ‘West Coast Trail’.
Michael is a voracious reader and sets himself a target of reading 50 books annually and his many other interests include Rock Music, still attending Music festivals each year, Opera and the Cinema, collecting Art Deco sculpture, Design and Writing. He has been involved in making two films (on Everest and the Leipzig International Choir festival) and is known for being both a fan and aficionado of his idol and icon, the Canadian singer Leonard Cohen and attended 33 of his concerts around the world between 2008 and 2013. His article on Leonard Cohen (which you can find here) was reproduced in several music publications.
Michael’s prime motivation for selling Casterbridge Tours in 2011 was so he could spend more time writing and as well as articles for this website, he is currently working on a true labour of love – ‘A Hiking Guide to Murren and the Lauterbrunnen Valley’ (in Switzerland) where his family has had a home since 1997 and where he has hiked every year since 1990.
In 2005 his first book ‘Around the World with Yeovil Town’ was published. He has also partly written ‘Dare to Dream – an entrepreneurs toolkit’ and ‘A Family’.
Michael has maintained a love of travel throughout his life and has visited over 100 countries and now primarily divides his time between his homes high in the Swiss Alps, Thailand and Canada as well as making time each year to travel in other parts of Asia and Europe. Before the 2020 coronavirus he estimated he had not spent more than three consecutive weeks in the same bed for almost ten years!
In his younger days Michael managed to complete a triathlon, several half marathons and two marathons (one in a respectable 3hrs 36mins which he has told all and sundry was only 30 minutes behind double Olympic Gold medallist Sebastian Coe!) and still tries to maintain some degree of fitness by walking 5 miles a day whenever possible.
Michael admits he is addicted to working in one form or another and shows no sign of slowing down. Like most entrepreneurs is never prepared to take ‘No’ as an answer and is rarely satisfied with anything he has achieved yet always seems to pack more into a week than most of us do in a year.
He rarely looks back, is always planning what to fit in next and always complaining there is never enough time to do all that he wants to do! He does however always find time to encourage others to strive to achieve their dreams and make the most of their skills, aspirations and drive.
Michael and Sharron’s three children live and work in Canada (Sarah) and the UK (Lisa and David) and Michael can always be contacted at:
* The 11+ was a competitive exam taken by all students in the UK when they completed Junior school aged 11. The 10% or so who were successful were sent to Grammar schools for the most academically gifted and prepared for a university education. The remainder (or failures!) were sent to Secondary Schools where there was more emphasis on preparing for a trades career with lessons in woodwork, metalwork and gardening.
If you did well in your ‘O’ level exams aged 16 there was an occasional chance to switch over to a Grammar school for two additional years study to take pre university ‘A’ level exams but for most the label of being an 11+ failure stereotyped you for the rest of your life.
The controversial 11+ exams were phased out in the 1970s with an effort to eliminate selective education by replacing Grammar schools with comprehensive schools which catered for students of all ability on a single site.