Birds, Beasts and Bedlam recounts the adventures of farmer-turned-rewilder Derek Gow, who is saving Britain's much-loved but dangerously threatened species, from the water vole to beaver, wildcat to white stork, and tree frog to glow worm.
Derek tells us all about the realities of rewilding; how he reared delicate roe deer and a sofa-loving wild boar piglet, moved a raging bison bull across the country, got bitten by a Scottish wildcat, returned honking skeins of graylag geese to the land and water that was once theirs, and restored the white stork to the Knepp Estate with Charlie Burrell and Isabella Tree.
Derek's first book, Bringing Back the Beaver, was a riotously funny and subversive account of his single-handed reintroduction of the beaver in Britain. Birds, Beasts and Bedlam, a natural successor to Gerald Durrell's A Zoo in My Luggage, tells the story of Derek's rewilding journey and his work to save many more species by transforming his Devon farm into a wildlife breeding centre. He now houses beavers, white storks, water voles, lynx, wildcats, and harvest mice, with the aim of releasing them into the wild one day.
Tearing down fences literally and metaphorically, Derek Gow is the one person with the character and strength of will to defy authority, bend the rules – and save our wildlife.
Derek Gow is a farmer, nature conservationist and the author of Bringing Back the Beaver. 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, 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 and a book on our lost wolves.
"Gow reinvents what it means to be a guardian of the countryside."
– The Guardian
"Gow has a fire in his belly. We need more like him."
– BBC Wildlife magazine
"The radical rewilder."
– The Times
"Derek Gow wants his farm to be a breeding colony, a seedbed for a denuded island."
– The New Yorker
"A larger-than-life character who writes as well as he thinks, Derek Gow has seen the future – rewilding – and it works."
– Stanley Johnson
"Derek's passion for our native wildlife is matched by his highly pragmatic approach to helping it thrive. He gets stuff done. The story of his amazing work at Broadwoodwidger is highly entertaining but also a heartfelt plea for a wilder, more inspiring Britain."
– Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
"Derek Gow's riotous adventures rescuing threatened species and releasing them for rewilding read like Gerald Durrell on steroids. Courageous, visionary, funny and always up for a scrap with bureaucracy and complacency, the world needs many more Derek Gows."
– Isabella Tree, author of Wilding
"A brilliant read – and the entertaining backstory of a species of human megafauna who has transformed the British conservation scene."
– Benedict Macdonald, author of Rebirding (winner, 2020 Wainwright Conservation Prize)
"There is only one Derek Gow. Like a gruff, bearded naiad, he speaks for nature with all the force of someone who has spent a life protecting it. The trickle of good news stories coming out of British conservation nearly all owe a significant debt to Gow; he has been instrumental in the restoration of the marvellous beaver, the increase in water voles and the return of storks to English land. In Birds, Beasts and Bedlam, this fascinating man tells us about his life and how he ended up championing rewilding as a solution to our impoverished landscape. More than this, there are hilarious stories of his many interactions with animals, both wild and less than pleased, that have dotted his journey in turning sterile Devon farmland into a beautifully rewilded tapestry of faunal interactions."
– Dr Ross Barnett, author of The Missing Lynx
"A great read from a rewilding polymath. This is how it's done – and you'll also learn about the struggles. Nature needs more bold people like Derek Gow to restore our damaged planet."
– Roy Dennis MBE, author of Restoring the Wild
"It is a charming, passionate and timely book. It will stir thoughts in many, and motivate them to do even small things that can have large consequences. I hope it will become a classic."
– Bernd Heinrich, author of A Naturalist at Large
"Derek Gow's Birds, Beasts and Bedlam is charming, witty and has a "get it done" approach to the reintroduction of endangered species and restoration of natural habitats destroyed by hundreds of years of overmanagement."
– Benjamin Kilham, wildlife biologist; author of In the Company of Bears