Henricus Peters reviews Bringing Back the Beaver: The Story of One Man’s Quest to Rewild Britain’s Waterways by Derek Gow

The author image on the back flap reminds me of (sometimes controversial) television botanist Dr David Bellamy, a past president of our NAEE who passed away in 2019. A reasonably burly figure with a bushy white beard set on a light short sleeved shirt – a real ‘farmer’ type. (Okay, so I’m being very purposely stereotypical). Not necessarily a ‘man of letters’, but then Bellamy was a gruff ‘rugby playing type’ who asked the world to fall in love with plant-life via ‘botanic man’. The book reads like a journey written on the back of a Ute, with twists and turns, and discoveries, sudden, unexpected, not always delightful, raising our knowledge level whether you like it or not. It’s not so much ‘welcome to the world of the beaver’, more ‘hello, read on if you dare, dare care about real wild nature’. Comfortable, no; enlightened, very. 

In Bringing Back the Beaver, farmer turned nature conservationist Derek Gow tells first-hand how the rewilding movement has become so dramatic: a struggle against red tape and at times head-to-head campaigns, despite the beaver having the capacity to renew and reinvigorate the very health of our British ecosystems.

For four hundred years, beavers were hunted to near extinction, portrayed as pests and habitat destroyers, with their pelts, oils and glands helping to build North America to what it is today. Beavers are again being recognised and acknowledged as nature’s brilliant engineers and renewal architects. 

Gow stands with fellow rewilding champions Chris Packham and Isabella Tree (who penned the foreword). George Monbiot states: “[Derek Gow] has done more to restore our missing fauna than anyone else in Britain. This is his astonishing story of what it takes.” 


Bringing Back the Beaver: The Story of One Man’s Quest to Rewild Britain’s Waterways. Derek Gow, 2020. Chelsea Green Publishing. Hardback pp144. ISBN 978-1-60358-996-3. £20.00.

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