In his funny and frank debut wildlife memoir, CEO of Triodos Bank UK Bevis Watts shares how he discovered a family of wild beavers thriving on the River Avon near Bath.
The endangered species has been reintroduced across the UK in conservation trials since the early 2000s, but Watts’s discovery of three generations of beavers in the wild suggests that the once-extinct species may once more be breeding, flourishing and living freely along the Bristol River Avon.
From ethical bank to riverbank
In River Journey, Watts documents how a month’s sabbatical from steering Triodos Bank UK through the pandemic and post-Brexit red tape turned into a summer-long Swallows and Amazons-style adventure, searching for signs of beavers along parts of a river only accessible from the water.
Beginning in the wettest May on record, Watts set out on dawn pilgrimages along the river, gathering evidence such as teeth marks and paw prints, finding their burrow, planting remote cameras and eventually having close encounters with the beavers themselves.
‘I hung on the water in silence, the kayak motionless in the calm by the left-hand riverbank, looking at the large mass of fallen willow ahead. All was silent and still. Then I saw a ripple from behind the tree and realised I could hear gnawing. It is hard to describe the sound – a bit like a rasp chaffing down wood or short bursts of fingernails rubbed hard against a wooden door – but it was magical.’
As he gathers evidence of the beavers through sightings, photos and videos, Watts also pulls back the lens on the river at large, sharing with readers not only beavers but otters, the first mayfly of the season, metre-long pike and roe deer, as swallows, kingfishers and barn owls swoop overhead.
Beavers and Britain’s landscape
River Journey reveals itself as not simply a book about beavers, but about the British landscape and what we must do to protect it.
Watts was inspired to write the memoir to raise funds for beaver conservation, and all proceeds from the book’s sales will be donated to Avon Wildlife Trust and Beaver Trust.