Knole Park is a large deer park that dates back to medieval times. It’s home to a historic building that was once an archbishop’s palace, later a royal haunt, and from 1603 has been occupied by the Sackville family. In 1946 the family gifted the house to the National Trust who now manage visits to the house and parkland. The Knole Park website has a wealth of history of the area, including oral tales of the people who once lived there. It’s worth looking through these fascinating stories such as the day the Beatles arrived to film the iconic Strawberry Fields.
Visitors year-round are greeted by fallow and sika deer, as well as ring necked parakeets, jays, and green and great spotted woodpeckers. You are encouraged not to feed or get too close to the deer, and to be careful if visiting in the rutting season. During this time the stags set themselves up on a hill close to the car park (Echo Mount), scraping and urinating in patches of mud to mark their territory. This behaviour is much to the annoyance of the park wardens who wander around trying to get people not to picnic in the scrapings. And you really don’t want to do so as this is where the female deer sit if they are happy with the male’s rutting prowess. So who knows what would happen to you there!
Average rating: 3.7 (good)
Average cost: the park is free to access, with a visit to the house costing $8 per adult. Further details can be found on the website.
Best time to visit: you can visit year-round but if you are going to watch the deer rut head there in October.
How to get there: Knole Park is a few minutes away from Sevenoaks train station. You can get to the park easily by car, bus, train, or bike. For details see here. Parking is available in the park although there is a charge and it can get busy on sunny days. As an alternative, you can leave your car in the centre of town (try the car park behind Waitrose) and walk in.
Typical activities: bird watching, deer watching, picnicking, running, walking
Number of reports: 6
WILDLIFE IN Knole park
According to reports submitted to WildSide, the most popular species that can be seen here are:
Fallow deer – 100% OF WILDSIDE USERS (6/6) REPORTED SIGHTINGS
There are an impressive number (some 350) of fallow deer in the park and it’s extremely easy to find them. They don’t seem at all bothered by humans. When we visited we saw some making a nuisance of themselves galloping across the golf course. The golfers told us off for wandering astray but couldn’t do much about the deer! Their lack of fear probably comes from their long residency. The herd’s ancestors have been roaming the park for 500 years or more. Tempting as it is, you are strongly encouraged not to touch or feed the deer. They carry ticks and if you touch a fawn they can be disowned by their mother and die. If you need a better prize than just seeing so many lovely deer, the rangers told us there is a white stag somewhere in the park, so try and seek him out!
Sika deer – 67% OF WILDSIDE USERS (4/6) REPORTED SIGHTINGS
Sika deer were introduced into England from Japan. According to the British Deer Society, it’s possible that all sika deer in the UK are descendants of one stag and three hinds introduced into Ireland in 1860. Their coats are similar to fallow deer and they have a long dorsal stripe down their backs. They can be recognised in Knole as the males have rounded rather than palmate (hand-shaped) antlers. They are also known for making unusual noises. Stags, for example, make a whistling sound which can be heard up to 1 km away! They prefer wooded areas, in particular conifers, and are generally shyer than fallow deer. This, together with the fact that there are much fewer in the park, means you may need to tread carefully to find them.
Eurasian Jay – 17% OF WILDSIDE USERS (1/6) REPORTED SIGHTINGS
Jays are beautifully coloured members of the crow family. They are easily recognised by the brilliant blue feathers on their wings. Unlike crows and magpies, they are shy birds. So look out for a flash of white and blue and a screaming call as they fly between the trees. The best time to see them is autumn when they move about the trees looking for food. During this time they are easy to spot hunting for acorns which they store in their favourite hiding places to provide a source of food for the winter. They live in both coniferous and deciduous woodland, especially where there are oak trees. Knole Park has a lot of large oak trees, making it a great place to spot (or more likely hear) jays!
great spotted woodpecker – 17% OF WILDSIDE USERS (1/6) REPORTED SIGHTINGS
Great spotted woodpeckers are beautiful black and white birds with a shock of red on their bellies. The males also have bright red necks. They can be seen on the trunks of large, old trees in the park looking for grubs. Despite their striking colours, woodpeckers can be difficult to spot among the leaves. One way to find them is to stand still and listen out for their distinctive call – a loud ‘click’ or ‘tchick’ sound. You can also listen out for the incredible drumming sound which they make as they peck holes in trees.
Green Woodpecker – 17% OF WILDSIDE USERS (1/6) REPORTED SIGHTINGS
It may well be easier to hear green woodpeckers than see them. In fact, they are sometimes known as the ‘yaffle bird’ after their distinctive calls. Unlike great spotted woodpeckers, you’re unlikely to hear them drumming into wood. This is because they mostly feed on ants and spend much of their time patrolling the grass. In Knole Park, you’re most likely to see them in open grassland areas such as the golf course. Here there isn’t much to get in the way between them and the ants! We saw one on the golf course, just before we were told off by the golfers.
Ring necked parakeet – 67% OF WILDSIDE USERS (4/6) REPORTED SIGHTINGS
Another bird that you’re likely to hear before you see is the ring necked parakeet. These are noisy, raucous, squawking creatures. And they aren’t shy! So if you hear one you are very likely to see one too. No doubt showing off their lovely, green feathers. They are called ‘ring necks’ as the adults have a ring around the backs of their necks. They like it at Knole as there are lots of old trees with holes where they can nest. There are various stories about how they ended up in England, but they seem to quite like it here, even though their native range is tropical!
Photo credit: WildSide team member Chris White