A NORTH-EAST travel writer who recounted his close encounter with a polar bear has won a prestigious award.

Sunderland-based travel writer and photographer Stuart Forster won the 2017 British Annual Canada Travel Award for Best Online Coverage.

He was presented with the award during an event at Canada House on Trafalgar Square in London.

It was the 27th edition of the awards ceremony, widely known as the BACTAs and organised by Destination Canada.

Stuart was awarded the BACTA for the feature Polar Bear Safari in Manitoba, Canada posted on his blog Go Eat Do (www.go-eat-do.com), following a trip to the town of Churchill during October 2016.

During that trip he came to within ten metres of a wild polar bear while trekking as part of group during a photo safari, led by expert guides from Churchill Wild. They were on the ground by the shoreline of the Hudson Bay, close to the remote Seal River Heritage Lodge, 60km north of Churchill.

“The following day I was so close to a four-year-old female bear that I had to move my camera when she tried to lick my lens just outside of the lodge,” said Stuart.

“There was, though, a wire fence dividing us at that point,” he added.

“It’s a huge honour to be presented with one of the BACTA’s beautiful sculpted glass polar bear trophies. The trophy is particularly fitting given the subject matter of my online feature.”

This is the second year in succession that Stuart has been named as one of the three finalists shortlisted for the online coverage.

Stuart’s work has been published in travel magazines such as National Geographic Traveller, newspapers including The Independent and The Telegraph and the likes of Rough Guides.