Thursday, 5 November 2009


What? A Journey With Ray Mears

Where? St David’s Hall Cardiff

When? Monday 2nd November

It was my first visit to St David’s Hall and I didn’t really know what to expect, especially as I was going to watch A journey with Ray Mears. Was it theatre in the round where Ray would build a bonfire and the audience would have to move around to see him cook various animals? Or would the auditorium be turned into some jungle like world in which Ray would lead us through and point out all the edible plants?Well, I can tell you, it was neither of those.

Essentially the evening was based around a power point presentation. Ray talked us through a series of interesting photos of his favourite Northern explorers. It may sound like a night round your aunties looking at holiday snaps but I assure you it wasn’t. Having said that, the first half of the show did plod along quite slowly, mainly due to the fact that Ray was going over the background story of what he was going to tell us. A story of exploration, determination and courage.

The Northern Explorer’s that were discussed were Samuel Hearne and David Thompson. Two British explorers’ from the 18th Century that opened up Canada. The Hudson's Bay Company and the fur trade turned Canada into an important trading post. With the increasing demand for fur there was an increasing demand for knowledge of the land. What tribes were out in the wilderness that the white man could trade with? Hearne and Thompson found out.

Ray told us how they managed to navigate through some of the most treacherous conditions on the planet and manage to stay alive amongst native tribes. Ray highlighted the difficulty of their expeditions as they were doing it at a time when there was no high tech equipment, no maps and no guidance. It was only their survival skills that kept them going. Well and the women. Ray mentioned that the women taken on expeditions carried all the packs, did all the cooking and basically did all the work. So nothing has changed then. The explorer’s sometimes didn’t even feed the women, as ‘they would get fat licking their fingers as they cooked’. Again, nothing has changed!

Even so, Samuel Hearne and David Thompson truly are two of Britain’s unsung heroes. It is their journey that Ray Mears tries to emulate in his current television series Ray Mears’ Northern Wilderness. Ray takes us on a journey over the mountains, through the lakes and on a beech canoe until we finally reach the far north. Here Native Inuit’s teach him how to go ice fishing, build a snow house and join in with traditional rituals. The Native people still teach their ancient survival skills to younger generations so they do not fear the country that surrounds them. Along with this Ray also pointed out his best survival tip-determination.

A fascinating story. Ray warned us at the start of the talk that it was serious and not in the slightest bit light hearted. I guess when you are talking about surviving in temperatures as low as -70 C there is no room for jokes.

The evening was like one of his television episodes. Great if you are a die-hard Mears follower. He even did a question and answer session followed by a book signing to ensure his fans got true value for money. I don’t think enjoy is really the right word to describe the evening. I feel more knowledgeable and lucky that I can reach into my cupboard for a can of soup when I’m hungry or get a hot water bottle when I’m cold. I’m glad I saw the show. Ray Mears’ is an amazing guy and exactly like he is on television. Simply Ray Mears.

If you want to know more about Ray Mears check out or what’s on at St David’s Hall

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