processes predominate and long term
financial stability is achieved outside of a
conventional agricultural framework"
As we write this (Autumn 2008), the deer are coming to
the end of the rut in what has been a
spectacular display of testosterone-fuelled
nature – reminiscent of bygone days when
knights sparred for land and lasses.
This is the spectacle that we who live in
the park have enjoyed since 2003 and which
we are now rolling out across the estate
with our latest 1000 acre enclosure.
Impressive all year round are the cattle,
with their extraordinarily haphazard horns,
they appear timeless and befit the wild
landscape that they are helping to shape.
As do the pigs – loved for their
independence and reminiscent of “Babe”,
but hated by those who like tidy lawns!
Meanwhile the Exmoor ponies – now 20
strong & starting to actually resemble a
herd, are rarer than the giant panda –
they exude character and look magical in
this Narnia-like landscape that we are
So what’s news?
With a new use for the land
between Countryman Lane and Dial post, many
will be pleased to see our farmland back in
production, although perhaps perplexed by
what seems to be managed neglect.
This project is all about
biodiversity and ensuring that isolated
habitats can connect and thrive.
Calling it an experiment sounds like
it has the potential to fail – but it
cannot fail to completely transform and
enhance opportunities for nature on this
land, when you think that it’s previous
use just 4 years ago was growing cereal
crops with tons of chemicals, diesel and
We are recreating, quite literally, a
9,000-year-old landscape within modern
parameters to encourage a biodiversity that
was created before man started tinkering at
Animals will drive the succession
from field to wood and back again, and with
that succession will be the associated
wildlife. Our Sussex Wildlife Trust has been doing this for years at
Ebernoe and The Mens, but this is the first
attempt on such a scale in lowland Britain.
What about me?
We appreciate that most people are
naturally more interested in themselves and
their own opportunities and threats – so
here are a few human enhancements:
Footpaths and public access
– we have 26km of public rights of way
through Knepp. Until the day comes when there is an official Right to
we shall guard our property rights BUT with
this project there is a great opportunity to
modernise the network and link routes and
create new ones…and we are doing this in
conjunction with Dial Post resident &
West Sussex County Council Access Ranger
So far we have agreed to several new
routes in the Dial Post area and off
Countryman Lane, but have plans to review
this fully over the winter.
Rest assured there will be more
legitimate routes through the estate as part
of this project.
Horse Riding – last
year we created 4 miles of Trot riding
routes through the estate.
Despite the phenomenal number of
horse riders in the area, subscription has
been poor with only 7 local riders (13 in
all) joining so far.
We have had no feedback from those
that continue to ride but won’t subscribe
and so will be reviewing this arrangement to
decide whether it would be better to convert
these routes to permissive
rather than just subscription only.
Group trips & tours – Since
we started this project in 2002, we have
hosted over 60 group tours of the estate and
that’s over a thousand people.
In the last two years the interest
grew to the extent that we trained Julie
Alexander in the office to lead school
groups through the Countryside Educational
Visits Accreditation Scheme, and we built a
bespoke personnel carrier that tows behind a
We have regular visits from Plumpton
College and Southwater Junior School, but
most other local schools come every other or
third year as it fits in with their
We welcome any interest group or local
organisation and aim to do at least 10 group
visits a year, including two for the general
public – the Horsham Food Festival and
LEAF Open Farm Day.
Details and dates for next year will
be posted on this site.
– last year Pauline Chandler of WSCC
organised the planting of some floodplain
woodland at Tenchford, and this year John
Whiting’s River Adur Conservation Society
have helped recreate localised areas of
nature habitat on the floodplain, and we
hope in the future that local residents
might like to join in with this group and
others that carry out volunteer projects on
At present we are co-ordinating these
through the parish clerks.
– our wild game shoot is evolving and with
three local gamekeepers and their team of
helpers, it is wonderful to breath life into
this timeless sport.
For those that would like to come
beating or would be interested in buying a
day’s rough shooting, please contact the
Is it all safe? Nationally our
rights of way network
crosses farmers’ fields which they use for
Our situation is no different, and
there is a risk.
Every year a story is reported in the
papers about someone being trampled by
cattle, and it is important to behave
responsibly and sensibly around livestock.
All of the animals will avoid you –
they have a natural in-built flight
BUT if they are fed then they become
more inquisitive and closer – it is
essential that no one feeds them because of
this fact – they will go to the next
walker expecting grub, and might get bolshy
if they don’t get it.
To put this in some perspective, in the
first park at Knepp, footpaths come right
through as they have always done.
Since we introduced the animals the
numbers of walkers has increased enormously.
Most walkers love to stop and admire
the piglets and ponies, cattle and deer –
it’s unique and special.
No one has been gored by any animals
thankfully, including our families and other
residents who live in and amongst them.
But what about riders? We did get rid of a stallion who became
aggressive to riders, and will respond to
concerns expressed by locals if it is felt
that any particular animal is aggressive.
Interpretation, instruction & advice
– we shall do our best to provide
information at all footpaths as they enter
the areas with livestock, so that members of
the public are kept informed.
Fences – sadly this
project is dependant on fences to keep the
livestock in, and because deer are involved
the boundary fencing ideally should be 6’
3'' high. But
there are options to reduce the spec – we
have erected just 5’ high netting in some
internal areas within the knepp park and
this seems to have worked, and if the
topography of the land lends itself to lower
fencing then we are happy to do this
providing we have the option of raising it
if animals don’t respect it.
There are other opportunities for
electric fencing also, which we will be
discussing with individuals.
Access from my back garden - for
those who enjoy unhindered access out of
their garden either legitimately or
otherwise, in most cases we will be offering
neighbours the opportunity to erect a gate
in the new fence on the condition that they
pay for it and enter into a licence with fee
for that gate, so that it’s raison
d’etre is not lost in the mist of time.
For those that just want to continue
dumping garden waste on our land then I’m
afraid those days are over!
- what about all those scruffy weeds? (or
as Charlie likes to think of them
“Flowering Plants”) - For those that
hate to see weeds, or just don’t want them
blowing onto their land, we are putting the
finishing touches to a new policy that will
ensure that we manage our boundaries within
the law without compromising our ecological
This will be posted on this website
here for the Defra ragwort code of practice
for information on ragwort in general.
But I hate
change! The land use
has changed reasonably regularly for
hundreds of years. What has been fallow for the last 4 or 5 years, was growing
crops before that, and 20 years ago was
small stock farms with – wait for it –
cattle…. Talk to any of the people that
live in properties on or in the existing
parks, and I can assure you they all LOVE
having these wonderful animals as their
– and we hope that you will
There is tons
more stuff on this and other projects on the
estate on this website.
It’s exciting times.
for further reading.