Ray Mears

Submitted by on Sep 17, 2015

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Raymond Paul "Ray" Mears (born February 7, 1964) is a British author and TV presenter on the subject of bushcraft and survival techniques.

Ray Mears grew up in Southern England on the North Downs, where he discovered a countryside abundant with wildlife. He learned to track foxes in the forest at a young age. As a boy, he desired to sleep out on the trail, but unable to afford camping equipment, he resorted to setting up camp using what he could find in his surroundings.

His enthusiasm for his subject, combined with his broad knowledge of survival and the uses which may be made of plants, trees and other natural materials found in woodland, forest or desert, have made him a popular figure in TV broadcasting in the UK and endeared him to various generations of lovers of the outdoors. He has travelled extensively across the world for his various TV series and is always willing to learn survival techniques from indigenous peoples he meets. His knowledge of the wild and his ability to teach others how to find food from seeds, berries, roots and other growing things, and to survive by constructing temporary shelters, fires and even making canoes (all from natural materials), have earned his programmes a wide viewing public and, in the eyes of some, elevated Mears to almost cult status.

He is particularly interested in the survival of groups of Resistance fighters and partisans for extended periods during World War II, such as the Norwegian Telemark heroes (see The Real Heroes of Telemark) and the Bielski Brothers in Belarus (see Extreme Survival). In a 2006 TV tribute to fellow BBC broadcaster David Attenborough, Ray Mears confessed that much of his passion for his subject was fostered by Attenborough’s nature documentaries.

Mears founded the Woodlore School of Wilderness Bushcraft in 1983. The company, which celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2008, has since expanded to running UK and overseas courses on the subject of bushcraft, as well as stocking outdoor equipment and clothing in their online shop.

Mears has trained only a handful of people to Instructor level. Upon achieving this goal, the new instructor receives a handmade antler-handled knife. Four people who have received this recognition are Juha Rankinen, Lawrence Clarke, Ben McNutt and Paul Kirtley. Juha teaches a government-run bushcraft college in Sweden, Lawrence is the head instructor for Bushcraft Ventures, based in the Cairngorms and Ben is the chief instructor for Woodsmoke, based in the Lake District. Ben McNutt also worked with Mears as illustrator of the book Bushcraft, published in hardcover in 2002 and the smaller Essential Bushcraft published the following year. Paul Kirtley continues to work with Mears as Woodlore’s Course Director.

Mears’ The Survival Handbook was published in 1990, and his first TV appearance was in 1993 in the BBC Two series Tracks. In the 2007 TV series Wild Food, Mears worked alongside the University College of London’s Professor of Archaeobotany, Gordon Hillman.

In September 2007, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Oxford Brookes University, and later the same year he gave a series of public lectures across the UK on his experiences in front of and behind the lens.

Mears’ latest television and writing project was a four-part series set in the Australian outback called Ray Mears Goes Walkabout. The television series was broadcast on BBC Two in June 2008[1], with an accompanying hardcover book published in the UK by Hodder and Stoughton in March 2008. In the series Ray met one of his heroes: Les Hiddins, aka "The Bush Tucker Man".

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