Elegy For a River
Water voles are small, brownish, bewhiskered and charming. Made famous by ‘Ratty’ in The Wind in the Willows, once they were a ubiquitous part of our waterways. They were a totem of our rivers. Now, however, they are nearly gone. This is their story, and the story of a conservationist with a wild hope: that he could bring them back.
Tom Moorhouse spent eleven years beside rivers, fens, canals, lakes and streams, researching British wildlife. Quite a lot of it tried to bite him. He studied four main species – two native and endangered, two invasive and endangering – beginning with water voles. He wanted to solve their conservation problems. He wanted to put things right.
This book is about whether it worked, and what he learnt – and about what those lessons mean, not just for water voles but for all the world’s wildlife. It is a book for anyone who has watched ripples spread on lazy waters, and wondered what moves beneath. Or who has waited in quiet hope for a rustle in the reeds, the munch of a stem, or the patter of unseen paws.
Terrific. Lightly but beautifully written. Very moving. Water voles are adorable little beasts. They are also tough, randy and stroppy, as Tom Moorhouse makes clear in this wry, amusing account of the often bloody, painful and frustrating business of conservation fieldwork. Accounts of the decline and degradation of wildlife and the natural world are generally off-puttingly gloomy, but Tom Moorhouse handles his subject with a light, self-deprecating touch. 'I hold stubbornly to optimism,' he declares, and his 'Elegy for a River' demands that we do the same. -- Christopher Somerville, wallking correspondent of The Times and author of The January Man Beautiful and important. Tom's book is extraordinary in its gentle curiosity and sympathy for his subjects. In Elegy for a River he takes us back to our childhoods. He then holds our confused moral compass up to a microscope to make us realise that only a return to that place can save us. I love this book. * Sir Tim Smit KBE, Executive Vice-Chairman and Co-founder of the Eden Project * Tom Moorhouse has written a book about ecological loss that is also somehow laugh-out-loud funny - passionate, warm and full of fascinating insights into the eccentric world of the field naturalist.' * Isabella Tree, author of WILDING * What a book. It has everything I love. It is lively, it is tender, it is fascinating, it starts small and very particular, and then - my God - by the end you are doing the Hallelujah chorus. It feels such an important book and I hope that everyone reads it. It seems to me to deliver on the greatest thing a book can achieve - when, through reading, you feel changed and inspired to act. * Rachel Joyce, author of Miss Benson's Beetle and The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry * It flows from the heart, eddies with fascinating information, and runs cool and clear with concern about the state of our rivers. They now have their champion. * John Lewis-Stempel *
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