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Knepp is a 3,500-acre estate south of Horsham, Sussex. Since 2001, the estate has changed from intensive farming to pioneering rewilding project. By taking out fences and allowing the cows, pigs, and ponies to roam free, the landscape has transformed. The movement of grazing animals through the landscape has restored dynamic, natural watercourses, and created an ever-changing mosaic of habitats that look more like an African savannah than the typical English countryside. The impact on biodiversity has been extraordinary, with record numbers of rare species such as turtle doves, nightingales, and purple emperor butterflies breeding on the estate.
You can read more about the rewilding process at Knepp on their website or the fantastic book about the project – Wilding. Visitors to the site can see a huge range of birds including barn owls, green and great spotted woodpeckers, jays, herons, grebes, and cormorants, and even white storks. And if you visit in Autumn you can see the spectacular fallow and red deer stags starting to rut. The difference between Knepp and a typical farm is almost mindblowing and offers an alternative vision for the UK’s landscape. That said, Knepp is not a Tompkins Conservation style project, ultimately it is still a farm and the animals are still killed for meat.
Average rating: 4.0 (very good)
Average cost: you can walk around Knepp for free along the public footpath – and it’s a great way to see the wildlife. Camping costs around $27 per person per night and glamping up to $175. A safari costs $82.
Best time to visit: the campsite is open from Spring to Autumn each year. You can visit year-round and there are no bad times to go. Spring is best for the dawn chorus, Summer for the butterflies, and Autumn for the deer rut.
How to get there: Knepp is around 1.5 hours drive from London. If you want to travel sustainably you can take a train to the nearby station of Horsham and pick up a taxi or cycle to the estate.
Typical activities: 4×4 safari, bird watching, camping, walking
Number of reports: 1
Last updated: 2021
WILDLIFE IN Knepp
According to reports submitted to WildSide, the ten most popular species that can be seen here are:
#1 barn owl – 0% OF WILDSIDE USERS (0/1) REPORTED SIGHTINGS
All five of the UK’s owls – tawny, barn, little, short-eared, and long-eared – have been recorded at Knepp. The abundance of small mammals living in the scrub vegetation, and the large areas of undisturbed hunting grounds, mean that Knepp supports a healthy population of barn owls. In 2016 a total of 18 barn owl chicks were counted on the estate. Look out for them flying low over fields and hedgerows at dawn and dusk. There are some good tips for barn owl spotting here, or you can always join one of the owl safaris across the estate.
#2 Fallow deer – 100% OF WILDSIDE USERS (1/1) REPORTED SIGHTINGS
#3 Red deer – 100% OF WILDSIDE USERS (1/1) REPORTED SIGHTINGS
#4 White stork – 100% OF WILDSIDE USERS (1/1) REPORTED SIGHTINGS
#5 Eurasian jay – 100% OF WILDSIDE USERS (1/1) REPORTED SIGHTINGS
#6 Great cormorant – 100% OF WILDSIDE USERS (1/1) REPORTED SIGHTINGS
#7 Great crested grebe – 100% OF WILDSIDE USERS (1/1) REPORTED SIGHTINGS
#8 Great spotted woodpecker – 100% OF WILDSIDE USERS (1/1) REPORTED SIGHTINGS
#9 Green woodpecker – 100% OF WILDSIDE USERS (1/1) REPORTED SIGHTINGS
#10 Grey Heron – 100% OF WILDSIDE USERS (1/1) REPORTED SIGHTINGS
In addition to the top ten, Knepp is also home to a range of other species including greylag goose (100%).
Photo credit: WildSide team member Chris White