TV preview: Wilderness Walks with Ray Mears

Survival expert Ray Mears goes in search of the spectacular sea eagle on the remote Isle of Skye.
Survival expert Ray Mears goes in search of the spectacular sea eagle on the remote Isle of Skye.
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When Ray Mears says he’s going for a walk, it’s what the rest of us would describe as a full-blown expedition.

So far in the series he has explored Snowdonia, Dartmoor and Galloway and in this final episode, he heads to the magnificent Isle of Skye in search of Britain’s rarest bird of prey, the spectacular sea eagle.

While exploring the remote Scottish isle, Mears also visits a seal colony, but it is a golden eagle he spots overhead, before he has even got off the ferry, which inspires him to wax lyrical.

He says: “That’s as good as anything you’d see in the Serengeti. I could watch that bird all day – it’s so majestic and it makes our puny effort sat moving through this landscape seem completely ridiculous. It’s wonderful. You know native people all over the world considered eagles to have a special affinity with the creator because they flew so high – I think they’re right.”

In Wilderness Walks, Ray takes viewers on a trail of discovery along rivers, through forests and across mountains as he searches for some of our greatest natural treasures, travelling from dawn to dusk to explore each unique habitat and the incredible wildlife that exists there.

“I’m a great believer in television as a medium for communication,” says Mears. “I try to bring people and nature closer together. In the digital age, it’s more important now than ever before.”

Mears grew up in the south of England, on the North Downs, and it was there from an early age where he developed a deep fascination with the countryside, learning to track foxes and use the natural tools at his disposal.

This interest was further fuelled by his school judo teacher. Kingsley Hopkins was a Second World War veteran who had fought behind enemy lines in Burma and taught him the mantra “You don’t need equipment, you need knowledge to survive in the wild.”

Mears now counts a knife and a water bottle as two of the essentials you need when you’re going into the wilderness and his name has become synonymous with the outdoor life, but are there ever times he yearns for a quieter life and a nice, warm office?

“I tried it when I left school and I didn’t like it. It just didn’t suit me, but then what I do wouldn’t suit a lot of people either.”

Although he thrives in the natural world and enjoys filming, he says it isn’t an easy life.

“It’s hard work and a lot of the time you’re either wet and cold, or getting burned by the sun and bitten by insects. There are some dangerous creatures on the planet and it’s often the little things that cause the biggest problems.

“But you know what? I have explored some of the wildest places on earth over the years, but my favourite is still Britain.”

Wilderness Walks with Ray Mears, December 30, ITV, 7.30pm