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Getting back to nature with Ray Mears
RAY Mears would be the perfect man to sit around the camp fire with. Having become a household name for his survivalist skills in the wild you would feel in safe hands if you found yourself against the elements on a camping trip.
And for the TV star it is getting back to basics which he loves best and seeing people discover the joys of being close to nature. This month he is talking about his adventures at the Wycombe Swan.
This year Ray is celebrating the 30th anniversary of his business Woodlore, The School of Wilderness Bushcraft, where he still teaches. He said he loves nothing more than seeing a student see the wild in a new way for the first time and to reconnect with their own sense of adventure.
He said: "It is better to work with real people than do TV. Of course, they are both good- they are both different. You should have more than one string on your bow.
"It keeps you fresh otherwise it gets stale."
His numerous TV series include Tracks, World of Survival and Trips Money Can't Buy with Ewan McGregor, which is where many were introduced to his attitude to bushcraft. He believes it liberates and empowers people and allows them to reconnect with nature.
Ray said: "The approach I take is learning how others have lived there. It is great fun- everything you learn improves your understanding.
"Look at it in an urban sense. If you are going to London as a visitor you plan to visit museums and art galleries and go to a show.
"Those who live there know you might like one type of gallery or a little museum you have never heard of or a nice bistro you hadn't heard of.
"Bushcraft is the inside knowledge of nature."
He grew up in southern England, where he discovered his love for the countryside around him. He said he can't remember his first night under the stars.
But said: "I think I know what equipment I had which was virtually nothing.
"I didn't have a sleeping bag. I had a poncho- something like a poncho.
"You can't get them now so it is hard to explain what it was."
And it is the beauty of nature which inspires him, and that is where he encourages people to open their eyes and see it for themselves.
Ray said: "We focus on trying to climb the highest mountain or whatever- that is just a small part of the outside. There is a different way of looking at it- knowledge takes many years to acquire."
And he enjoys it so much he said it feels like only yesterday since he started his bushcraft school. But he said he has noticed that people seem to talk themselves out of having an adventure, preferring to watch TV instead.
He said: "When you sit by a camp fire and watch the sun go down and the stars come out... TV is a poor replacement for the camp fire.
"I am not saying it is not hard. It can be hard but that brings your own reward."
He has been out of the country for most of the year and said he is looking forward to touring.
He said: "I am going to talk about why I go into wild places and what's special about it. I am also going to talk about staying safe in wild places."
Ray doesn't enjoy the logistical side of touring but added: "The positive side of it is you are meeting real people- you don't have that opportunity in TV. "It informs me and helps me.
"Sometimes I argue with the TV production teams as I know what the viewers want.
"We don't always agree."
This year he has recorded a series for BBC4 about the wild west which will be out next year.
He said: "Some people think the wild is a good place to run away from something. I think that is a mistake.
"They underestimate the attention to detail you have to pay going into wildlife.
"You are carrying your life support on your back- you have to think very carefully about what you are doing.
"There are risks.
"The respect for the environment is what the whole experience is based on."
An Evening With Ray Mears is at Thursday, October 17 at 7.30pm. Tickets are £22.50 to £25 from 01494 512000 or go to www.wycombeswan.co.uk
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