Outdoorsman Ray Mears presents a new series in which he explores some of Britain’s most beautiful habitats and celebrates the best of the country’s wildlife.
Caledonian Pine Forest
Ray heads to the Caledonian pine forests of the Scottish heartlands. These ancient forests once spread across thousands of kilometres of the Highlands, but today only a few remnants remain. They are home to rare species including the capercaillie, a turkey-sized grouse. Ray camps out, hoping to witness the dramatic courtship display of these impressive birds. He also keeps an eye out for red squirrels.
Ray is off to the Pembrokeshire coast to visit the uninhabited island of Skomer. Because of the absence of mammal predators, this is a haven for thousands of seabirds, including razorbills, guillemots and over 6,000 pairs of puffins. He watches as they fly back and forth with mouthfuls of sand eels to feed their young. Later on, Ray ventures inland to explore the beautiful red campion-covered slopes, where he comes across the island’s only endemic creature – the Skomer vole.
Ray follows the chalk seam that runs from the dramatic white cliffs of Beachy Head to the glorious South Downs. In summer they are covered in colourful orchids and medicinal herbs and prove irresistible to a host of butterflies. Of Britain’s 58 breeding species, 39 have been recorded here, but the highlight for Ray is the delicate Adonis blue. The chalk seam takes him on to an inland quarry and the mysterious yew woodland of Kingley Vale – unique ecosystems that are home to a fascinating variety of fauna including the peregrine falcon and one of Britain’s best loved mammals, the badger.
Ray is heading for Norfolk to have a look at the county’s lowland rivers like the Wensum. These clear chalk-fed waterways are a haven for wild plants and fauna including the striking kingfisher and our native crayfish – which is threatened by American incomers. Ray then goes in search of the water vole – a creature whose population is declining at a faster rate than the black rhino.
Ray heads to North Uist in the Outer Hebrides to explore Loch Maddy, the island’s largest sea loch. Red deer, otters and common seals share its shores with just 2,000 human inhabitants along with diving and wading birds like the beautiful red-throated diver and magnificent sea eagle. Ray also goes scuba diving and explores the magical underworld beneath the loch’s surface.
Ray heads to the New Forest in Hampshire. Established 1,000 years ago as a royal hunting ground by William the Conqueror, this is now one of Britain’s finest nature reserves. In its ancient woodland Ray finds fallow deer and New Forest ponies – as well as dead and decaying trees that provide a haven for beetles, bats and hornets. By night he ventures onto the windswept heathland for an encounter with the mysterious nightjar.
Outdoorsman Ray Mears heads for the most northerly landscape on the British mainland – the extraordinary peat bogs of Caithness and Sutherland. Covering 1,500 square miles, they are among the largest stretches of unspoiled blanket bog in Europe. The Flow Country is a wilderness that has remained virtually untouched by humans since the end of the last ice age. Here Ray discovers some rare plants as well as birds such as the black-throated diver and the hen harrier.
Ray Mears heads to East Anglia to explore a beautiful area which is also one of the wildest and wettest parts of Britain. The Norfolk and Suffolk Broads are a vast low-lying wetland of fens and reed beds that are home to one of our largest spiders as well as the stunning swallowtail butterfly and the common crane, which has returned to the area after an absence of 400 years. Later, as evening falls, Ray catches a glimpse of the elusive Chinese water deer.
Mountain and Moorland
Outdoorsman Ray Mears heads for the wildest part of Britain – the Highlands of Scotland. There he explores the dramatic peaks and heather-covered moors which support a fascinating mix of mammals and birds that have adapted to an ecology unique in these islands. Ray witnesses the secretive courtship display of the black grouse, encounters a herd of reindeer and scales the mighty Cairngorms in search of the mountain hare.
Best of Show
The outdoorsman presents his personal highlights from the first two series and explains why the best place in the world to view wildlife is right here at home. Over the series, Ray has travelled the length and breadth of the country and explored Britain’s wildest and most beautiful habitats, from the sea lochs of the Outer Hebrides to the chalk grasslands of Sussex. On his journey he has encountered creatures including the wild boar, short-eared owls, badgers, a rare spider and the shy and secretive capercaillie.
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