Go­ing against his na­ture

Friday - - Leisure -

Sur­vival ex­pert and nat­u­ral­ist Ray Mears ad­mits that he’s al­ways been a loner. It’s not that he’s unso­cia­ble, but he’s happy on his own in the great out­doors.

“I re­mem­ber walk­ing across an open space where peo­ple were play­ing cricket and some­body shouted out, ‘There’s the lo­cal her­mit’, and I was quite proud. I thought it was cool. I don’t get lonely,” says the man who has fas­ci­nated mil­lions with his bushcraft tech­niques on TV and through the cour­ses he runs across the globe. “Look­ing back, I think I strolled into the woods one day and na­ture saw me and said, ‘Walk this way’.”

It’s now 30 years since he founded UK-basedWood­lore, The School of Wilder­ness Bushcraft, where he teaches his unique skills and also ar­ranges ex­pe­di­tions to places like the Arc­tic and Namibia. He can carve a ca­noe or a spoon, start a fire with­out matches, make a shel­ter of snow or sticks and track a wolf.

“The jun­gle feels like the net­tle patch at the end of the gar­den and the desert feels like the rock­ery. Re­cently, I was in the desert look­ing for rat­tlesnakes and scor­pi­ons, but that’s just nor­mal for me now.”

Even as a young boy grow­ing up in Sur­rey, Mears had a quiet con­fi­dence. When he took up judo he learnt about the meet­ing of mind and body, and be­ing in con­trol of them. “It teaches you to have spirit and de­ter­mi­na­tion and not to give in. Judo al­ways teaches hu­mil­ity and a range of traits that are in­cred­i­bly valu­able in life.”

Over the years his abil­ity to sur­vive has been tested to the lim­its, from en­coun­ter­ing snakes and other ven­omous crea­tures in the Hon­duran rain­for­est to nar­rowly es­cap­ing death in a he­li­copter crash while film­ing in the US.

All this is charted in his new au­to­bi­og­ra­phy My Out­door Life. But The trauma tem­po­rar­ily dam­aged his eye­sight and he re­calls that Rachel’s de­cline was as painful to wit­ness as it was rapid. “It was very dif­fi­cult to write,” he says now. “It was like re­liv­ing it. Do­ing an au­to­bi­og­ra­phy is a very stress­ful process, be­cause I don’t re­ally like talk­ing about my­self, and what is past I try to put be­hind me. I al­ways move for­ward in life.

“I live now for this mo­ment. I feel I have to prove my­self ev­ery day. It’s a nat­u­ral process. Ev­ery an­i­mal has to demon­strate its right to be alive on a daily ba­sis and I live like that.”

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