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Big, messy and mysterious – crossing paths with a wild boar can conjure fear and joy in equal measure. Driven to extinction seven hundred years ago, a combination of the species' own tenacity and illegal releases from the 1980s has seen several populations of this beast of myth begin to roam English and Scottish woods once more.
With growing worry over the impacts on both people and the countryside, the boar's right to exist in Britain has been heavily debated. Their habitat-regenerating actions benefit a host of other wildlife, yet unlike beavers, these ecosystem engineers remain unloved by many. Why is there no clamour to reintroduce them across the land? And, with the few boar in England threatened by poaching and culling, why are we not doing more to prevent their re-extinction?
In Groundbreakers, Chantal Lyons moves to the boar's stronghold of the Forest of Dean to get up close and personal with this complex, intelligent and quirky species, and she meets with people across Britain and beyond who celebrate their presence – or want them gone. From Toulouse and Barcelona where they are growing in number and boldness, to the woods of Kent and Sussex where they are fading away again, to Inverness-shire where rewilders welcome them, join Chantal on a journey of discovery as she reveals what it might take for us to coexist with wild boar.
Part One: Past and Present
Chapter 1. An End and a Beginning
Chapter 2. A Wild Boar Chase
Chapter 3. Guys, Dolls and Humbugs
Chapter 4. Monstrous Appetites
Chapter 5. Re-Pigging
Chapter 6. This Is Our Land
Chapter 7. The Boar People (Part I)
Chapter 9. Mad About the Boar
Chapter 8. The Boar People (Part II)
Chapter 10. To Kill a Boar
Part Two: Futures
Chapter 11. A Bamboche of Boar
Chapter 12. Mind-Forged Fences
Chapter 13. Losing Them Again
Chapter 14. The Risks of Being Alive
Chantal Lyons is a naturalist, writer and science communicator. Having grown up in the tidy countryside of Kent, her encounters with the growing rewilding movement opened her eyes to the potential for restoring nature in Britain, and inspired her to study the relations between people and wild boar in the Forest of Dean. She currently lives in Cheltenham, never too far from the boar.
"Magnificent. An elegant, enlivening and profoundly on-point portrait of a forgotten icon, and our struggle to reconcile ourselves to its return. Read cover to cover with absolute relish. For a species monograph it does something really special – never once wallowing (ha), losing pace – just full of joy, pathos, warmth, integrity and intrigue."
– Amy-Jane Beer, author of The Flow
"A thrilling expedition into a wild, unruly world. Written with great passion and insight, Groundbreakers examines the joys and challenges that come with living alongside resurgent Wild Boar. Giving us a window into the lives of these hairy forces of nature, Lyons challenges us to consider our place on the planet, and how we might relearn the forgotten skill of peaceful coexistence. A timely and vital addition to the conservation writing canon."
– Lee Schofield, author of Wild Fell
"In this gently thought-provoking and beautifully written book, Lyons gives us an intimate insight into the lives of our wild boar and those that live alongside them. Groundbreakers is a charming and impressively balanced account that's as important for our society as rootings are to the forest floor"
– Leif Bersweden, author of Where the Wildflowers Grow
"I've had the privilege of reading this book in advance, and I can tell you it's a gem."
– Eoghan Daltun
"Groundbreakers is a real page-turner, as Chantal Lyons delves back in time and forward into the future to tell the fascinating story of Britain's only truly big, fierce mammal: the wild boar."
– Stephen Moss, author of Ten Birds That Changed the World
"Meticulously researched, carefully judged and passionately argued, in Groundbreakers Chantal Lyons unleashes a sounder of captivating prose. An unflinching book on both the challenges and triumphs of rewilding and a fascinating exploration of Britain's forests and their wildest inhabitants."
– Joe Shute, journalist and author of Forecast
"A well-researched, important, and intimate study of the frequently misunderstood wild boar. With a burgeoning human population, Lyons does not shy away from the issues of their increasing spread into our midst, writing with balance and humour, as well as concern for the future welfare of this fascinating keystone species. An informative, entertaining, and thought-provoking read that helps us understand the benefits of having large predators back in the UK."
– Polly Pullar, author of The Horizontal Oak
"A fascinating, joyful study of one of the less glamorous cover stars of the rewilding movement. In this balanced and thoughtful book, we are invited to be bolder and braver in our relationship to the natural world, and not to fear change in a changing world – especially with an animal that has, until just a few centuries ago, helped engineer our collective landscape."
– Tiffany Francis-Baker, author of The Bridleway
"Conversations about whether we should or should not have wild boar in Britain are redundant now. They're already here, and this rich and readable book goes a long way towards helping us understand our new neighbours."
– Patrick Laurie, author of Native
"A delightful, page-turning, exploration of nature's resilience, that asks all the right questions about the future of natural history on these isles."
– Jules Howard, zoologist and author of Wonderdog
"A fine book about a very interesting species [...] This boarish book is neither borish nor boring."
– Mark Avery, author of Reflections
"If you, like me, were unaware that "repigging" might just be the key to reviving Europe's biodiversity, then prepare to have your eyes opened by this warm and intrepid book. Groundbreakers is a charming, compulsively readable tribute to an unlikely keystone species."
– Ben Goldfarb, author of Crossings and Eager