Ray Mears: “Find a tree, sit down and wait – let the nature come to you”

In a Big Issue series on celebrities and nature, wildman Ray Mears and nature writer Malachy Tallack reveal the special places they like to escape to

In almost any corner of the country you’re going to find something special. You don’t have to go far in Britain to get into lovely open countryside, in almost any corner you’re going to find something special.

If you’re looking for a place to go and explore start with the New Forest [below]. Forest doesn’t necessarily mean trees, it’s an old hunting reserve so there are open areas too, heathland and forest, but it has a special atmosphere, the light is good there.

It has a special atmosphere, the light is good there

It’s big enough to get lost in but it’s not so harsh that you’re going to come to any harm without special training. But you do need a compass and a map. Take a pair of binoculars, find a beautiful tree, sit down under it and wait – let the nature come to you.

New Forest

The weather is no excuse. I like bad weather as much as the good. When I was a kid I used to go out in the bad weather deliberately because there would be no one else about and it felt like everywhere was mine. That’s always stayed with me.

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I was born to be in wild places, that’s where I feel most alive. I don’t mind getting lost because I’m exploring something new and I feel completely comfortable and I know how to take care of myself. That’s the magic of having developed these skills – I feel at home when I go to wild places.

You don’t wear a badge that says I’m into bush craft, it’s invisible – except for the special light that’s in the person’s eyes.

Ray Mears – Born to Go Wild tours the UK from October 8

Malachy Tallack

When I need to escape the city, but don’t have the time to go, I make my way to Linn Park [below]. At 200 acres, it is the second largest of Glasgow’s parks, and is surely the wildest. This was once an industrial area, with the remains of several mills still visible along the White Cart River, but today much of it is overgrown with trees.

Linn Park

I’ve watched kingfishers and dippers here, buzzards and sparrowhawks. I’ve seen salmon jumping below the Linn waterfall, and I’ve searched (so far unsuccessfully) for the otters that are also present in the park.

I’ve watched kingfishers and dippers here, buzzards and sparrowhawks

Looking at the map, it is surprising just how close you are to roads, to schools, to homes, at all points along this walk. It can feel, on a quiet day, very far indeed from all that. And if you head south on the trail from the White Bridge, on the east bank of the river, you leave behind the dog walkers and the cyclists and the family outings.

You find yourself, usually, alone. There is a spot here, beside the river, where I like to sit in silence, not really thinking, just waiting, watching, until I feel ready once again for the city.

Find out more about ‘how to get lost’ – from vendors and celebrities – in this week’s Big Issue, on sale now