As the sunrise softens into Autumn, I have treated myself to spending the last couple of Sunday mornings nestling into the hearth of one of my favourite Scots Pines with a cuppa while attentively turning the pages of River Journey by Bevis Watts, CEO of Triodos Bank UK and former CEO of Avon Wildlife Trust.

What a treat of a tale!

River Journey – Searching for Wild Beavers and Finding Freedom – Tangent Books

This book contains much more than the author’s intimate and hard-won search and discovery of wild beaver through brook, stream and river whatever the weather.  It’s an adventure of the soul; a humble yet heroic struggle with the challenges of the day; a reclamation of so much that’s been discarded in our rush towards superficial highs.

This quality publication is brimming with love of life.

Pages interweave the author’s challenges through COVID and BREXIT while leading a growing ethical bank, with a passion for nature. Bevis’s own rewilding – recovering aspects of himself in danger of becoming extinct amid the busyness of business.  The pages also share much about the front-line challenges of habitat conservation in this day and age. For instance Bevis notes,

‘We can advocate bee-friendly gardening (which I do) and tree-planting, but until we really call out and address systemic issues such as the tax loopholes in land and woodland ownership and give more significant resources to Natural England, a regulator neutered by years of David Cameron’s ‘greenest government ever’ austerity cuts, we are pushing water uphill. The ‘con’ in conservation, it can be argued, is that for all our efforts and many species and landscape recovery successes, we are currently simply slowing the decline of nature rather than conserving it.

I am an optimist, and I do believe we are seeing a generational shift in values, with young people today far more cognisant of the natural environment and of how their own individual actions relate to it. But the need for education and engagement is still huge.

Among the many human challenges thrown at me as a CEO of a Wildlife Trust were the following: a horse-rider repeatedly cutting locks on gates and threatening colleagues while professing his right to ride in a woodland SSSI (site of special scientific interest), despite their being no bridleway; having to evict travellers from a newly acquired site, which incurred more than £10,000 in costs for the eviction and damages; the mundane issues of fires and bird hides being vandalised or used for antisocial behaviour; and dog-walkers letting their animals roam freely on land that is home to deer, hares, badgers, foxes, weasels and more.  Restricting the freedom of dogs may be an affront to many owners, and indeed the odd dog wouldn’t be an issue, but everyone thinks their dog is just the odd dog, and dozens of free-running dogs daily have a huge impact on wildlife sites. Oh, and did I mention fly-tipping?

The mind boggles at what issues a beaver-introduction programme might encounter, as beavers are often misunderstood, and unless some controls are in place, the potential for conflict with humans is significant. But if there were beavers with a real chance of establishing themselves on this stretch of the Bristol Avon, then I wanted to do everything I could do help them do so and to spread beyond.’

As well as the trials of life, the pages contain beauty and humour. I found myself laughing out loud at times. The author immerses himself to become one with nature with patience and reverence. In fact, one might suggest that it’s this very reverence that allows Bevis to tune-in so intimately with nature. He notes,

‘The water was like glass, and each paddle stroke broke it crisply. I could see my breath as I exhaled and there was a mist gathered on parts of the river. It was so eerily silent and still that I felt I was trespassing in another world.’

This book invites us to take notice of nature in our neighbourhood, and to question how we tread through life.

‘So much wildlife survives despite our neglect and carelessness. Just imagine what could thrive if we just gave it a little more space and opportunity.’

As Bevis knows,

‘It always comes down to education and awareness. If people really knew what they were jeopardising, I am sure they would respect these places more.’

Through his patient camera-work he observes,

‘The beaver’s role in habitat creation and its reputation as a keystone species in nature’s restoration was evident beyond anything I would ever have imagined when setting out the camera traps within the beaver’s aquatic world.’

This book does many things to my soul, not least reminding me to simply be still in nature, to sense and see what’s really here on our watch.  The heroic-humility of this book and of its author palpably stirs me amid this rising age of regeneration, reconciliation and {r}evolution. To work with the grain of nature, rather than against it, is the key to our unwritten future. To really sense the weave and weft of nature requires the patient passion that Bevis radiates. There’s no doubt that the world of banking, the world of business in general, indeed society at large, needs leaders like Bevis, ones who dare to walk the inner and outer pathways while vulnerably and authentically challenging the status quo.

Through the pages one can feel the author’s frustration with the current system.

‘Too many politicians, leaders in the health sector and civil service, fail to act on what they know to be true, living in fear of following common sense without watertight evidence. It is easier to maintain a paradigm we know isn’t right than take responsibility for change that we inherently know is right.’

Maintaining the old rather than birthing the new is killing us, and much of life on Earth.  Rather than evolution we face extinction due to our inability to shift the dominant paradigm inured in the illusion that we are separate from and in competition with nature.

River Journey offers more than hope. It’s an invitation to journey home. A journey that invites us to reconnect with the rapture of the wild in order to be reborn in harmony with life.

I share Bevis’s long term interest in systemic change and also his belief that we are at the start of a great awakening. In my own work of helping shift leadership consciousness beyond the dominant paradigm, I sense a renaissance bubbling up into brook, stream and river journey ahead, flowing towards a deeper attunement with the Wisdom of Life. And this book plays its part in this renaissance, as does its author.

River Journey is a beautiful book written by a beautiful soul – thank you Bevis for birthing this gift into the world!

River Journey – Searching for Wild Beavers and Finding Freedom – Tangent Books

You can purchase the book directly from the publisher here:

All author proceeds go to the Avon Wildlife Trust and the Beaver Trust.

This book review was written by regenerative leadership adviser & author Giles Hutchins