15 July 2021, The Tablet

No questions asked

No questions asked

Wild China with Ray Mears

The BBC ran a documentary series some years ago called Wild China: now ITV has gone one further and added Ray Mears (inset) to the formula. Will the engaging Mears, a bushcraft expert who looks like an old-fashioned bank manager, be showing us how to track a North China leopard along the Great Wall? Alas not: he sits in a sheltered spot, watching night-vision footage of the leopards on a handy laptop.

This was disappointing. TV viewers have expectations of top-class sumptuousness when it comes to wildlife programmes, and this more resembled a provincial tourist information film of yesteryear, or an extended slot on Countryfile. The first episode (13 July) took Mears to Beijing, a city of 21 million people. There he cycled around in the frosty winter sunshine, not a high-rise block or a pollution fug or even a motor vehicle in sight. All is lakes, parks and the curving ­traditional roofs of the old hutongs. They’ve reintroduced (with the help of the Duke of Bedford at Woburn) the city’s population of red deer, previously extinct in China. Two hundred million trees have been planted in the city to help counteract the effects of ­pollution. A raptor rescue centre saves long-eared owls and releases them back into the wild.

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