Take a walk on the wild side with Ray Mears

Ray Mears will share his wilderness stories in Glenrothes.
Ray Mears will share his wilderness stories in Glenrothes.

Spending the night underneath the stars without home comforts isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

But for Ray Mears, it’s his idea of a good time.

If you’ve been living under a bush for the last few years (see what I did there?) Ray is the down-to-earth survivalist, bushcraft expert, author, photographer and the star of countless television series, who can be found in the wilds, eating from the hedgerows and making fire with sticks.

“I grew up with an interest in all things wilderness,” Ray explained. “When I was just a young thing, about 11 years old, there was a family of foxes that used to visit our garden and I was fascinated by them. I used to sneak out in the middle of the night and watch them go about their business.

“It’s safe to say that when my parents found out they were not best pleased!

“It was my school judo teacher Mr Kingsley who encouraged me to look at the world in a different way. He had fought behind enemy lines in Burma during the Second World War and I just found him fascinating.

“He told me: ‘You don’t need equipment, you need knowledge to survive in the wild’.’’

Ray first appeared on our screens back in 1994 presenting the BBC series ‘Tracks’ and then 1997’s ‘Ray Mears’ World of Survival’.

In 2003, he presented the BBC documentary ‘Ray Mears’ Real Heroes of Telemark’ about the Norwegian heavy water sabotage mission during World War II.

It was while filming a documentary in Wyoming in 2005 that Mears was involved in a serious accident.

The helicopter in which he and his camera crew were travelling struck the ground during a steep low level turn and broke apart rolling to a stop.

The fuel tank was ruptured in the accident and escaping fuel covered Mears and the crew. No fire occurred and Mears was able to escape the wreckage uninjured and assist in the rescue and administer first aid to one of the crew who was badly hurt.

“I was surprised to be alive. I didn’t think anyone else would be,” he said.

And this autumn sees him embark on a 31-date tour of the UK which arrives in Glenrothes next month.

Ray will take audiences on a journey that he values for cultural, spiritual, moral and aesthetic reasons and explain why he believes these are vital for creativity and the development of the human spirit.

“I’ve been teaching bushcraft for more than three decades now – in fact it will be 35 years exactly next year,” Ray said.

“So I thought it’d be nice to have some fun on stage. I want to talk about how important detail in skills is. That’s important: if you want to learn something, you have to do it until you really know it. The skill I’ve chosen to talk about is fire. I’m going to show people a variety of ways of making fire.

“You should know that we’re going to try, if we can, if we’re allowed to, to make fire on stage. I’ve been assured we can do that, so we’re going to!” he added, laughing.

“I think it’s a really important skill, and fire is what I want to concentrate on and what it means. And the other is about a detailed knowledge of nature which I will utilise films from Australia to help illustrate my point. It will be a joy.

“Hopefully we’ll get a bit of audience participation as well. That’s always really fun; getting people up on stage and teaching them things is really the best bit for me.”

Ray, whose new seven-part ITV series – Australian Wilderness – is now under way, will include tales of his most recent travels to the continent, trekking through mountains and deserts, rainforests and oceans to encounter the weird and wonderful animals that have adapted to survive and thrive.

“Australia really is a fascinating country. I’ve made seven films for ITV looking at wild places and the wildlife you find there – it’s been great fun.

“I hope to bring some of the things I learned there into the tour and I want to share some of my adventures with the audiences including swimming with sharks which was an incredible experience – one I think everybody should do at least once in there lives!”

You certainly couldn’t describe Ray as being scared and it was this bravery that led to him helping the Northumbria Police track down one of the UK’s most wanted men in 2010...

“I went there with the express purpose of trying to find Raoul Moat in the woods,” Ray explained. “Tracking is a skill that I have, so we went into the forest and searched for him, and found sites where he’d been.

“It was a bit petrifying I will admit,” he said. “I don’t think that I had any sleep for three days.

“I had the top firearms team and six search dogs, so there was a lot of firepower, but I had to be at the front, though they didn’t want me to be.

“You can’t track if someone’s treading on the tracks. I was the point of the spear for a day. For me though, however dangerous he was, the biggest fear for me was letting everybody else down.

“That was what I was most concerned with if I’m honest. I don’t scare easy!”

His career has taken him all over the world, but it is the countryside of the British Isles that he still finds fascinating.

“I learned my craft here in Britain and it still holds a lot of wonder for me,” Ray said. “There is so much to explore. And I especially love Scotland.

“It has everything that you could ever want in terms of bushcraft – mountains, forests, moors, it is a great and beautiful country and I can’t wait to head back up there.

“And I hear that Fife has one of the best coastlines , so I will be looking forward to doing some exploring.”

And what’s next on the horizon for Ray Mears?

“Well, I’m still asking and answering questions. Learning one thing brings up 10 more questions. That’s how it is; bushcraft is one of those subjects you’re never finished with.”

Catch Ray Mears: Born To Go Wild at the Rothes Halls, Glenrothes on Thursday, October 12. For tickets and more information visit www.raymears.com.