Ray Mears: At One with Wilderness

Ray Mears: At One with Wilderness

Ray Mears and his bushcraft isn’t a TV show, or a gimmick, or a fad – speaking to Ray and watching his means and methods shows true bushcraft to be not just an art form in terms of survival, but beyond that, a way for humans to flourish in the great outdoors.

Ray Mears and his bushcraft isn’t a TV show, or a gimmick, or a fad – speaking to Ray and watching his means and methods shows true bushcraft to be not just an art form in terms of survival, but beyond that, a way for humans to flourish in the great outdoors.

It’s probably not a surprise to find that someone who connects so closely with nature and the outdoors is a quiet, private, almost shy person. Ray Mears has never actively gone out to make TV shows or become ‘a name’ in bushcraft; more, his passion and knowledge of the wild has driven followers to him, desperate to learn about techniques, methods and processes that modern generations have either forgotten or never learned.

“I love that phrase ‘failing to prepare is preparing to fail’, because it applies to so much in life, and for the most part I stand by it,” Mears begins. “Yet where bushcraft is concerned, it couldn’t be further from the truth, because in almost every way, failing to prepare is the only way to truly give yourself the chance to succeed outdoors when it’s you and mother nature, side by side.

“Bushcraft begins, almost with a ‘dream’ to be dropped into a location with nothing but your own knowledge and experience – that’s the really exciting thing. Of course, there are luxuries we all want in life, but feeding off the land and fending for yourself – surviving, essentially – is the most thrilling feeling of all. It’s right at the heart of who and what we are as human beings, and to this day it still makes me very excited.”

„I was asked about the film The Revenant the other day, and specifically the bear attack scene. Having been very close to bears myself, I know that, normally, if you leave them alone then they will leave you alone. That’s a good rule for anything in the wild because you are encroaching into an animal’s habitat… their home.“

Ray Mears

Mears is certainly a reluctant force when it comes to the TV and media circuit, but it is his drive to teach and educate others that keeps him coming back. “I’m so glad that this current generation really ‘get’ the whole bushcraft thing, and have a passion for it because we really need it to be maintained. And I don’t mean just us Europeans, I mean the world as a whole – in aboriginal communities the knowledge has been gradually disappearing for a whole range of complex issues around the world… different problems in different places. But outside of those communities it’s very much alive and kicking, and it’s healthy for people to aspire to want to go out into wild places and experience nature in that way.

For those of us looking to find time away from our digital existences, Mears has some simple advice. “The key thing when you go out in the wild is to be aware of everything around you,” he begins. “Planning and craftsmanship starts with very simple elements – from whittling wood to stripping plants – and can then develop from there into whatever it is you want of it.”

Mears is also acutely aware of the pressures of modern life – those that threaten the countryside and rural areas we cherish to greatly.

“There is a bigger debate here that says, yes, of course, we need to build houses. But then, there are plenty of places, bits of land that are not being used in cities. We’re too happy to put concrete over green spaces, yet those pieces of land were there to be inspirational places, to be lungs, and to remind us of bigger issues. It’s very important that we listen to the wisdom of our forefathers.

“We need to make sure our children are educated to recognise the importance of the flowers and the wildlife and things of nature, to understand that we are a part of that eco-system too. And that, ultimately, we depend on the welfare of all the other things that we encounter in the wild.”

Ray Mears: At One with Wilderness

RAY MEARS’ 10 BUSHCRAFT TIPS:

ONE
Stop running, start looking
“Vegetation isn’t mobile and the only thing stopping someone from finding food is their own creativity and imagination – put another way, you don’t need to outrun or snare your lunch! All you need is an environment that provides a strong mix of fruits, vegetables and seeds. Anything beyond that is a bonus.”

TWO
Go nuts for nuts
“Nuts are the most obvious source of protein if you can find them. Where I live it’s sweet chestnuts, hazelnuts and walnuts, and these are all quite distinguishable by their plants. There are other nuts that grow, but generally, the nutritional rewards you glean from those are too small to make their excavation worthwhile!”

THREE
Plant-based survival
“Anything like spinach or asparagus will be good. I’d suggest broccoli and cauliflower as well, but for the fact, they can’t really be described as wild.”

FOUR
Fungi are no fun
“Don’t waste your time on mushrooms and fungi – not only do they not contain as much protein as you would imagine, but selecting the wrong one could spell danger!”

FIVE
Dig for victory
“I always look for burdock. You have to really dig down for it, but you can get along, a tasty root that can be eaten raw, boiled or fried. It’s a solid meal.”

SIX
Consider going it alone
“I prefer it when I’m out in the wild by myself. It’s much easier to concentrate, have the opportunity to reflect and appreciate what’s around you when you’re on your own. Some people just prefer their own company, and I’m one of them.”

SEVEN
Don’t underestimate yourself
“We may be stuck in a very modern world, but when you’re put in a situation that sparks survival instincts into life, you’d be amazed what people can manage to do. I believe we can put our minds to anything, and especially when forced into situations that are uncomfortable to us.”

EIGHT
Respect wildlife
“I was asked about the film The Revenant the other day, and specifically the bear attack scene. It’s quite fascinating and, having been very close to bears myself, I know that, normally, if you leave them alone then they will leave you alone. That’s a good rule for anything in the wild because you are encroaching into an animal’s habitat… their home.”

NINE
A way with wood
“I always need to have a knife with me as it can provide you with a real head start in the wild, but the most versatile thing you need will be wood – for fire, as shelter, as a handle, even as a hunting implement.”


TEN
Animal tracking
“Following the movements of animals in the wild is fascinating. You may be looking for food, or perhaps just admiring creatures in their natural habitat. Whatever the reason, there are lots of ways to learn how to stop animals and your bushcraft will be considerably enhanced when appreciating the full variety of those you are sharing your time with.”

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