After discovering the jobs of exploring the wilderness at a young age, Ray Mears is set to share his passions with an audience at Lighthouse, Poole, this week.

James Frampton finds out more...

Q: You are embarking on a British tour this autumn with a new show entitled, “Born to Go Wild – The Joy of Going to Wild Places.” What do you enjoy so much about live performance?

A: What’s fun about touring is meeting the television viewer face-to-face. That’s very important. A live show is real – it’s un-mediated. I also get some great questions. The youngest people ask me the best questions. They’re very demanding. A 16-year-old once asked me, “What is Nature?” That was pretty difficult!

Q: What else appeals to you about doing live shows?

A: I love communicating my ideas. I have been teaching for 35 years, so I do know my subject. You get a very immediate connection with a live audience. That’s my favourite aspect of it.

Q: This is going to be an upbeat show, isn’t it?

A: Absolutely. On my last tour, I talked about a wartime secret agent who died in a concentration camp. Although I got lots of amazing letters from people who said they gained great strength from it, it was quite downbeat. This show is not like that. We are determined to make this more light-hearted. It’s going to be a really fun show.

Q: What subjects will you be covering in “Born to Go Wild”?

A: In the first half, I’m going to demonstrate a few things. For instance, I’m going to talk about fire. I’m going to underline how important it is. Making fire is a skill unique to human beings - remember the monkeys in The Jungle Book singing about wanting to learn how to make “man’s red fire”? We are the only creatures who can create it. It’s the thing that separates us from other creatures.

Q: You pioneered the popularity of bushcraft in this country. Why do you think it is so crucial?

A: Nobody was doing it before me. My company, Woodlore, is now the oldest in the world doing Bushcraft – it will have been going 35 years next year. People can understand Bushcraft. It’s all in the details. There is no shortcut. The long road is the best road to knowledge, but the journey is interesting in its own right. We live in a world where everyone takes the escalator rather than the stairs. The stairs are tiring, but they make you stronger.

Q: Could everyone benefit from learning about bushcraft?

A: Absolutely. There is something in it for everybody. It has built upon its successes. Everybody is good at something in bushcraft. That makes us respect each other and encourages us to tackle things we are weak at. With mutual support, we can help each other. I brought over those principles from judo: maximising efficiency while minimising effort. Those are great life lessons.

Q: What other lessons can we learn from bushcraft?

A: You mustn’t waste a day. Life passes very quickly. Bushcraft teaches you how finite life is. It’s a very profound subject. Some people bogusly attach spirituality to their bushcraft activities. But we teach people to let Nature take its own course. People have preconceptions about bushcraft, which are reinforced when they go camping with the wrong information. But taught properly, camping can be very rewarding. The magic of bushcraft is that it can draw people in who never thought of doing it. It has a profound ability to change people’s lives.

Q: What one item do you always want with you when you go camping?

A: A brew kit. I’ve made a point of always having a brew in the most exotic places. In Australia, I would very discreetly have one in a fire zone. A ranger would come along, and before he could complain about the fire, I would ask him, “Would you like a cuppa?” That always works!

Q: When did your fascination with the natural world begin?

A: I had an interest in it from a very young age. I wanted to know everything about Nature. I became very interested in tracking animals and wanted to stay out late doing that. I didn’t have any equipment, so had to learn survival techniques. The North Downs, where I lived, is a spectacular place for plant life, so I learnt all about that. You soon start down the road where every question teaches you something special.

Q: Your TV shows are renowned for their authenticity. Is that very important to you?

A: Yes. It’s vital that people understand that the TV I do is real. I think some people are mistrustful of TV at the moment. Luckily compliance is in place now and everything is a lot more transparent. I used to have arguments with producers where words were used such as, “We do it for real, or we don’t do it at all!” I don’t have those arguments anymore.

Ray Mears, Born To Go Wild, is at Lighthouse, Poole, on October 20. Tickets and information from or 01202 280000.