Wild France: With Ray Mears
Ray explores the geography, flora and fauna of six dramatic French landscapes. The high mountain ranges of the Alps, the coastal waters of the Brittany, the chestnut forests of the Cevnnes, the caves and gorges of the Ardeche, the wet-lands of Camargue and the rolling lavender plains of Provences unique maquis landscape. Across the series Ray explores the dramatic physical geography of each region; its topography, its climate and its extreme weather conditions. He tracks down and identifies the key wildlife species that live there and how they have adapted. He introduces us to animals with an ancient history with the land such as wolves and vultures as well as more unexpected and exotic wildlife such as pink flamingos and dolphins.
Part 1: Vanoise
Ray Mears visits The Vanoise National Park in the high Alps. Here he meets local goat herder Audrey who enlists his help moving her goats up to summer pastures. He explores the seasonal nature of the mountain and how humans and wildlife have adapted to the altitude and extremes of weather. He meets local park ranger Alex who take him up to see some ibex. He gets up close to see ibex jousting and hopping down the sheer cliff faces. Further up the mountain he enlists the help of donkeys to carry his kit. During his trek Ray comes across playful marmots, enjoying the sunshine before making his way to the very top of the mountain to find one of the rarest birds in Europe, the bearded vulture.
Part 2: Ardeche
Ray travels to the Ardeche, where miles of gorge and limestone cliffs characterise the region. He discovers a cave with a long history in the area and is given special permission to abseil in through the original sky facing entrance. Deep in the cave he finds a stunning array of stalactites and stalagmites, before crawling through narrow tunnels to see new chambers, sealed off from the public. Once back on land he starts out his journey down the Ardeche River by canoe. Along the way he meets local wildlife ranger Olivier, who shows him a Viperine, frogs and teaches Ray some the traditional uses of local plants. They climb high up the cliff face to find a cave used since prehistoric times and Ray finishes his journey watching beavers busy on the river.
Part 3: Camargue
This Camargue is a vast wetland which includes ancient salt pans, huge expanses of river delta, inland salt-water lakes, and reed beds. Ray travel to meet the French cowboys the ‘gardians whove made it their home. He meet the beautiful white Camargue horses the cowboys ride and watches as they round use their skills to round up some powerful Camargue bulls. Ray visits the salt pans to discover how the salt influences the ecology of the area before heading off to meet some of the regions most famous residents, the flamingos.
Part 4: Cevennes
Ray visits The Cevennes National Park, one of the most uninhabited regions in France. He travels deep into the Chestnut forest to meet Laurent, a local farmer whose family have grown chestnut trees for generations. He sets up a campfire to cook some chestnuts to make a chestnut soup. He continues his journey, meeting a local bee keeper who builds traditional hives from tree trunks before heading off to find an animal who would once have been a common to this area, the wolf. Living in the park amongst the wolves are vultures and Ray hears the story of their successful re-introduction to the area.
Part 5: Provence
The hills of Provence in Southern France are loved for their ancient olive groves and lavender fields. But this is also where a very special scrub-land known as the Maquis or the Garrigue is found. On the limestone outcrops, prickly junip, Ray explores this classic Provence landscape, visiting the beautiful ochre canyons and heads off to the gorge to look for the rare Bonellis eagle. Ray using his tracking skills to find a whole family of wild boar.
Part 6: Brittany
Ray visits the rugged West Coast of Brittany. He heads out by boat to discover the nearby islands. On his journey he gets up close to bottlenose dolphins when they come swimming up to his boat.
He meets a seal colony and finds some seaweed fishermen before heading back to land. By the rocks, he discovers a family of peregrines whove build their nest dangerously close to land and meets Joel, a local shellfish specialist who takes him down to the beach to look for shellfish and learn about Brittanys high tides.