I'd had to give last year's show a miss due to a family member's terminal illness so I was glad to get the chance to pop along for the day this year to the show. I won't lie that Ray Mears being there was a definite draw and a big well done to magazine editor Olivia for landing this marquee signing.
I'd got there and ready to move about 9:15 and was pleased to see that us tourists could enter as I thought it might be a case of having to wait around until 9:30 so I decided to have a quick circuit to get my bearings, specifically seeking out the Woodlife Trails crew and the main marquee for later.
Dave Watson and Andrew Price
And so I started wandering a fairly random route through the stalls and back again, I had all day so the planning didn't need to be any more precise than that. Whatever, and whoever caught my eye.
Perry McGee and Ben Orford
I'd seen several stands that I wanted to make purchases from and duly did so. I didn't actually spend a lot which I think showed that a) I'm not a kit tart and b) I have self control.
Pablo and Craig Fordham
The morning seemed to fly by and I decided to go and sit by the lake to have a quick nosebag. A short walk round and I found a nice shady spot under a Hawthorn. There are some newer stands as well as some old familiar faces and it obviously nice to catch up with both punters and instructors that you know, but also to try and catch folk that you know from Facebook. Social media is much maligned but I tailor it to the outdoors and it's great to meet like-minded folk through it.
And the above picture is a shot back across the lake towards the show and to me perfectly reflects the calm and bustle available on the day. Well after a lazy bit of grub I had another quick gander and then decided to park by backside in the display marquee and wait for the reason that I'd come as a day visitor on Saturday-Ray Mears.
I ha d a little wait ahead of me but I had some reading matter that I'd purchased earlier. I did a paracord article for Bushcraft and Survival skills magazine a while back and wanted a better condition copy than I had at home, so this issue got well read by a captive me. I twas also this issue that had the very satisfying Joe O'Leary moccasins in which I've had a go at.
It started to get a bit warm in the marquee and I'm glad I had water, and I had to feel for some folk when we were asked to produce our talk tickets and some (in good seats) had to vacate as they were ticketless. There was music playing at a low level in the backfround and I had to smile when they played The Cure's 'A Forest' which seemed entirely apt.
We had some pre gig 'entertainment' watching some sponsor and magazine banners going up and then I caught a sight of editor Olivia entering through a door I the back, closely followed by Ray. He got a premature round of applause whilst waiting at the side of the stage and Olivia introduced him and seemed genuinely thrilled to have secured him for the talk. Then the 'official' applause rang out as he came on all mic'd up.
And he was off. He said that this is the first time he's addressed an audience like this at such an event and initially stated that the talk would be loosely based on a forthcoming book however it seemed to morph into a motivational speech sprinkled with personal anecdotes and references.
He often adopted this thoughtful demeanor and slow walk when composing the next piece of dialogue.
Often measured, occasionally vocal and all talk was matched with lots of hand gestures.
During the talk some guests (mainly sponsors) came in and sat by the side of the stage to catch the final moments of Ray's speech, including Lofty Wiseman and Ray made a reference to the fact that Lofty suggested he'd survive a situation by eating Ray!
And blow me if a while later Lofty 'stormed' the stage and the two met and shook hands for the first time which was nice to see. Ray did a question and answer session at the end which was a little dominated at times by some kids who had sat at the front of the stage and caught Ray's eye a lot. Not a deal breaker though. Ffyona Campbell was to do the next talk who actually went out with Ray many years ago.
And his talk was a cracking way to round off my day and so to the car. A day or so after I was also rather chuffed to see that Dryad Bushcraft's Andrew Price used a picture I took of him as his Facebook banner page, it's no coincidence that the Welsh flag featured prominently behind him.