Bringing back the beaver

The story of one man’s quest to rewild Britain’s waterways

In Bringing Back the Beaver, farmer turned ecologist Derek Gow tells his inspirational and often riotously funny first-hand account of how the movement to rewild the British landscape with beavers has become the single most dramatic and subversive nature conservation act of the modern era. Since the early 1990s – in the face of outright opposition from government, landowning elites and even some conservation professionals –Gow has imported, quarantined and assisted the reestablishment of beavers in waterways across the UK.

For 400 years they have been hunted to the point of extinction, cast as pests, enemies of landowners and destroyers of habitats. Their fur, oils, glands and meat helped build North America and fueled international trade, yet few animals have garnered such a terrible and unfair reputation. However, in recent years the beaver is making a dramatic and welcomed comeback. As the potential of another wet winter threatens to wreak yet more havoc on flood-prone towns and cities across the UK, beavers are being recognised as nature’s architects, whose dams help to filter water, stop run-off and reduce flooding, while also providing much needed habitat for a range of wetland wildlife.

Beaver kit on dam - credit - Josh Harris

Derek said -

‘It is a tragedy that the beaver which can deliver so much good, which can resuscitate landscapes when they are approaching death and about which we know so very much is being restored so slowly to Britain. It is a triumph that despite the opposition of determined opponents, the inertia of governments and a bureaucracy filled to the brim with fools who obstruct this good on a daily basis that a solid band of determined individuals are bringing them back.’

Held in high esteem by fellow rewilders, including Chris Packham and Isabella Tree, Derek is known as an eloquent maverick, communicating the urgent need to bring these charismatic creatures back to Britain. They are, he passionately believes, the key to ecological recovery. A truly glorious read and a welcome addition for any fan of nature writing and conservation, Bringing Back the Beaver makes a passionate case as to why the return of one of nature’s greatest engineers is essential to Britain’s future.

Bringing Back the Beaver by Derek Gow is out in paperback January 13th, published by Chelsea Green Publishing

More on Derek

Derek Gow is a farmer and nature conservationist. Born in Dundee in 1965, he left school when he was 17 and worked in agriculture for five years. Inspired by the writing of Gerald Durrell, all of whose books he has read – thoroughly – he jumped at the chance to manage a European wildlife park in central Scotland in the late 1990s before moving on to develop two nature centres in England. He now lives with his children, Maysie and Kyle, on a 300-acre farm on the Devon/Cornwall border which he is in the process of rewilding. Derek has played a significant role in the reintroduction of the Eurasian beaver, the water vole and the white stork in England. He is currently working on a reintroduction project for the wildcat.