Whether vehicle-based or guided on foot our Safaris take you into the heart of the Knepp Wildland Project – 3,500 acres of natural habitat where you can enjoy a stunning proliferation of wildlife, from herds of free-roaming herbivores and flocks of birds to the rarest fungi and beetle.
Our Safaris are suitable for all - wildlife novice, amateur enthusiast or professional ecologist. Your guide, who is highly experienced in species identification, will take you to the current hotspots for wildlife activity according to the season.
The Knepp Wildland Project is a pioneering experiment in habitat creation, the largest of its kind in lowland Europe. Here, natural processes – driven by large ungulates – are allowed to take place on an influential scale.
Over the course of little over a decade, since the project began, we have seen a remarkable come-back of species, many of them nationally scarce. Knepp is now a hotspot for nightingales, cuckoos, turtle doves and purple emperor butterflies, to name a few. From observing species like these at Knepp, ecologists have gained new insights into their behaviour and habitat preferences, demonstrating that the Knepp Wildland Project, with its focus on natural processes rather than species targets, has ground-breaking scientific value.
Knepp Wildland Safaris and campsite are all about the quiet and patient observation of nature. Some of the species we are likely to encounter are shy or can be frightened by loud noises or sudden movements. Others may take time to find. For this reason our safaris are suitable only for children of 12 and over.
Our campsite with open-air fire-pits, wood-burning stoves and an on-site pond is unsuitable for small children. We welcome guests with responsible children of 12 years and over but would also advise we do not provide additional entertainment for them.
Early summer is the season for nightingales.
Early summer onwards is best for seeing beetles and reptiles and listening to the Dawn Chorus, and for seeing birds in general.
Autumn (October/November) is when the deer rut.
Half-Day Safaris are available throughout the season.
See the relevant Safari pages for more information and specific timings.
Knepp Castle, a castellated mansion designed by John Nash, was built in 1806 for the Burrell family. Thanks to its historic continuity Knepp Estate can boast ancient trees hundreds of years old. These are beautiful specimens in themselves but they also support rare species of beetle, lichens and bracket fungi.
The land attached to Knepp Castle was farmed with increasing intensity over the last century, particularly following government directives after the Second World War. The soil, however, is heavy Weald clay and not ideal for modern intensive farming methods.
Towards the end of the 1990s we gave up our dairy herds and arable crops and switched to a more extensive system. The method we are now practising in the Knepp Wildland Project is more like ranching, which gives us a significantly low-carbon footprint. Permanent pasture, woodland and scrub also play a vital role in capturing and storing carbon from the atmosphere.
Grazing animals are the prime ‘movers’ of regeneration. The breeds of animals we have at Knepp – longhorn cattle, fallow, roe and red deer, Exmoor ponies and Tamworth pigs – imitate the mix of herbivores that would have grazed this land thousands of years ago. The different species affect the vegetation in different ways helping create a mosaic of habitats like open grassland, regenerating scrub, open-grown trees and woodland.
Population densities of these grazing animals are carefully managed - too many animals and the whole area will revert to open plain; too few will result in dense woodland. With careful monitoring the animals can live outside all year round without the need for supplementary feeding, except when there is significant snow cover. The cattle, pigs and deer we cull provide us with premium quality ‘wild-range’, slow-grown, organic meat – something that is much in demand amongst both food connoisseurs and ethical consumers.
"In the next 60 years I hope we will have learnt the importance of a robust ecology for our future on this planet. Our focus will be not simply on conserving what little we have left but on re-creating the conditions to allow natural processes to return. Isolated areas of nature will be re-connected through a lacework of corridors and stepping-stones so that species can survive in sustainable numbers. Intensive farming will be balanced by a greater emphasis on extensive methods like pasture-fed livestock. Ecosystem services - putting an economic value on our natural resources - will be a vital part of this process."
- Charlie Burrell, Vision for the Future, Knepp Wildland Project 2014