Ray Mears, the survival expert and television presenter, is a happy man but a very busy one.
In April, his six-part series on Wild Australia will begin on ITV1.
In the summer Wild France will be broadcast and he’s currently writing a book, his eleventh or twelfth (he’s lost count) about travelling in the Arctic Circle.
Now he’s embarking on a UK tour with his show Tales of Endurance which visits Buxton in April.
If we were still obliged to choose one word on our passport to describe our occupation, Ray, 52, would probably plump for Woodsman. He said: “I absolutely love trees and forests. I’ve now got pretty good at divining what the weather will do by listening to the leaves as they respond to the wind. There’s something very therapeutic about being at one with nature.”
All of this from a man who was brought up in Purley. Ray said: “We lived near the South Downs. Surrey’s amazing, one of the UK’s most wooded counties.”
As a lad, he more or less lived on his bike. I was an only child but so lucky with my parents. They gave me my freedom; they loved me with open arms.”
In his mid-teens, he read “an incredible book”, The Forest People by Colin Turnbull, his study of the Mbuti pygmies of the then-Belgian Congo in the 50s. Ray’s fate was sealed. “I knew then that exploring in its widest sense was what I wanted to do.”
Throughout his 20s, Ray made a living from teaching woodcraft.
In time, he was approached by the BBC for a series called Country Tracks. He was invited to contribute five interview slots about his speciality which quickly became ten slots. “In those days, you had to win your spurs to appear on television unlike now when it seems that anyone can get their five minutes of fame and for no very good reason.”
He also has pretty trenchant views when it comes to issues like foxhunting. “It’s not that I’m anti foxes,” he said, “but by no stretch of the imagination could they be called an endangered species. We waste so much effort debating the foxhunting issue at a time when other common species – songbirds are a prime example – are under real threat.”
‘We need to wise up as a society and stop being so stupidly emotional. What we should be looking at is the loss of habitat, the reduction of biodiversity, the reasons behind the decline or loss of certain species.”
Anyone coming to his new show will hear plenty of tales as well as learning how to be safe in the wild, whilst taking a gap year. He has a particular word of advice to those people: don’t stuff your backpacks with fancy gizmos. “My mantra is simple, ‘Knowledge weighs nothing at all’.”
Ray Mears visits Buxton Opera House on April 1, at 7.30pm. Tickets £24.Call 01298 72190 or visit www. buxtonoperahouse.org.uk