Birds, Beasts and Bedlam
Turning My Farm into an Ark for Lost Species
By Derek Gow
‘In this warm and funny autobiography, [Gow] writes with a whimsical fluency about the moments of humour and pathos in an unusual life.’ Country Life
‘Gow reinvents what it means to be a guardian of the countryside.’ Guardian
‘Courageous, visionary, funny.’ Isabella Tree, author of Wilding
Tearing down fences literally and metaphorically, Birds, Beasts and Bedlam recounts the adventures of Britain’s most colourful rewilder, Derek Gow. How he raised a sofa-loving wild boar piglet, transported a raging bison bull across the UK, got bitten by a Scottish wildcat and restored the ancient white stork to the Knepp Estate with Charlie Burrell and Isabella Tree.
After a Shetland ewe captured a young Derek’s heart, he grew up to become a farmer with a passion for ancient breeds. But when he realised how many of our species were close to extinction, even on his own land, he tore up his traditional Devon farm and transformed it into a rewilding haven for beavers, water voles, lynx, wildcats, harvest mice and more.
Birds, Beasts and Bedlam is the story of a rewilding maverick and his single-minded mission to save our wildlife.
Reviews and Praise
‘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