knepp wildland project
articles on the wildland project

Saving Spices BBC Radio 4 (13 MB a MPEG-4 Audio File)

Many conservationists say that the British countryside is too crowded and managed to be of real benefit to our native wildlife. For Saving Species this week Brett Westwood takes a close look at this premise and asks the question, can some areas of our managed landscape be returned to their former glory and therefore become hotspots to support our native wildlife?

Brett Westwood travels to Sussex to Knepp Castle Estate to find out how landowner Charlie Burrell is managing his land in a wilder way. Once a traditional arable and dairy farm, for the last 11 years the estate has been restoring and regenerating the land to boost biodiversity and allow less intensive meat production. The 1,400 hectares are grazed by roaming herds of Old English Longhorn cattle, Exmoor ponies, pigs and deer as part of the estate's Wildland project. A stretch of the River Adur which flows through the estate is also being changed - having been canalised in the past, the path of the river is being more naturalised to restore meanders and to incorporate natural floodplains.

Chris Sperring returns to Devon a year on from his last visit to find out how some of nature's architects are managing their local patch in the second year of a three year experimental project run by the Devon Wildlife Trust. Fenced within a 2.8 hectare site, the 2 beavers, a male and female have continuing to create dams and large pools and manage the water flow across the site.

Also in the programme - News from around the world with our regular news reporter, Kelvin Boot. And we'll update you on the activities of the Open University's iSpot.

Presenter: Brett Westwood Producer: Sheena Duncan.



Saving Spices BBC Radio 4

  13 MB a MPEG-4 Audio File





Sussex Ornithological Society Newsletter Summer 2012

Last year we visited the Knepp estate on March 9th, this year we decided to go a little later hoping to see migrants. Twenty four members met at the Bothy to be welcomed by Charlie Burrell, Ted Green, who has a great deal of knowledge but a particular interest in trees and birds, and Olivia, a student at university who is doing the Nightingale survey for Knepp.

By Brianne Reeve







The Tamworth Trumpet Hamlet's wild adventure!

A wonderful article on Michele Baldock's Tamworth boar coming to Knepp. Michele writes beautifully about the adventure the boar must have had coming to the land of the free. Written by Michele Baldock


Sussex River Restoration at Knepp Castle Land Gazette 20 Nov 2011

Restoring a river system that has been engineered and canalised two hundred years previously is nothing if not ambitious.  However, many things undertaken by our predecessors in the name of progress have not unfortunately proven themselves to be sustainable.  Early mapping of the upper river Adur on the Knepp Castle Estate in West Sussex established that the river had been straightened in the early nineteenth century.  Ever since it had been deepened and the floodplain drained for agriculture until really the two were disconnected.  The river flash flooded dramatically two or three times each year and drained just as quickly and was also completely lacking in that iconic water-meadow biodiversity. Written by Ian Hayes


Growing wild at Knepp Castle  The Field September 2011 Issue


A largely arable estate is reverting to a natural grazing regime. It’s

good for the land, good for the wildlife and good for shooting.

Elizabeth Walton reports. Photographs by Anya Campbell


Sussex Ornithological Society Newsletter Summer 2011 - Titbits

The Knepp Estate has been developing several conservation initiatives in recent years, including creating new A wetland by returning the River Adur to its original course, desilting the lake, planting with the endangered Black Poplar, and allowing disused agricultural land return to scrub. The work is gradually returning the estate to the way it was before the intensification of agriculture, and regular surveys have found a total of 77 bird species present over the past 6 years, including of course the famous Heronry, one of the largest in the country. The estate is criss-crossed with footpaths, which are also being improved. For more information, see their very informative website at  

Eco-project will see Adur return to natural meander West Sussex County Times August 21 2009

SHADOW Environment Secretary Nick Herbert went on 'safari' during a visit to the wildland project managed by the Knepp Castle Estate near West Grinstead. 

The ground-breaking rewilding project is being run by estate owner Charlie Burrell who gave the South Downs Conservative MP an extensive tour of the 3,500 acre site. 


Horsham Today



Landfill site "could destroy unique project"  West Sussex County Times and the West Sussex Gazette July 31 and 29 2009

Alex Jenkins reports A LANDOWNER has warned that if landfill proposals at Thakeham go ahead it will destroy a unique rewilding project. 


West Sussex Today

Knepp Castle: gone to the dogs, and horses, and pigs... The Daily Telegraph - 2 July 2009

Angela Wintle reports. Knepp Castle has embarked on an experiment where nature rules. The well-manicured countryside of West Sussex, with its carefully enclosed parcels of pasture, arable crops and conventional farming stock, is pretty typical of the English Home Counties rural scene.


Country Side Monthly, European Landowners Organization - June 2009

Charlie Burrell reports. I inherited my family’s landed estate from my grandfather in 1985 when I was just 21.  My father had chosen a life in Australia and was not interested in the complexities and costs of running a 200 year-old mansion in the overpopulated southeast of England.....



A Knepp in the air   The CLA's Land and Business Magazine  February 2009

Jessie Cooke reports from a CLA estate that has become one of Britain's most exciting centers for countryside education

WHEN YOU think of a safari you would normally imagine tracking the big five across the wild plains of Africa. However, as I found out when I visited Knepp Castle, it is possible to experience a safari which is just as exciting and much closer to home.


Country Land and Business Association

A walk on the wild side   The Argus on Saturday 

January 10th 2009

A PIONEERING farming project in Sussex plans to put mother nature back into agriculture.

Reporter SAMUEL UNDERWOOD talks to the man behind the project to discover what inspired him to reject modern farming methods and to hear his views on the future of the countryside.


If you go down top the woods today...The Sunday Times - December 28, 2008

Support is growing for ‘rewilding’, which could see bears, wolves and elk roaming Britain.

You are on safari amid lynx, bears and elk. The wetlands around you are dominated by small lakes created by beaver dams. In the distance a wolf howls.

Nothing unusual perhaps – except that this is not northern Canada but Scotland sometime in the near future.

Jonathan Leake Environment Editor



Prominent estate pushes boundaries aspects of land - 

Winter 08/09

Countryside Stewardship was the catalyst back in 2002, which lead to the restoration of parkland around Knepp Castle, near Horsham. Then several years of successively poor arable commodity prices helped to encourage the owner, Sir Charles Burrell, to consider a conservation project, the likes of which have not been seen before in the south east.  

Jason Emrich reflects on the bold ideas being implemented at Knepp Castle in West Sussex

Farming a legacy   The Countryman - June 2008

'I've inherited my ancestors' legacy of 500 years here.  I want my grandchildren to be able to say when they're my age, "How wonderful to still hear the crickets"', says Charlie Burrell.  'Here' is Knepp Castle Estate near Horsham, Sussex where Charlie is currently in the process of 're-wilding' what was a traditional, 3,500-acre dairy and arable farm.    

Helen Harrison reports


Bid to save trees from extinction West Sussex County Times - Friday February 8, 2008

THE FIGHT to save the black poplar tree from extinction has seen a mass planting in Shipley.

More than 1,300 of the rare riverside trees were set in the ground on Friday February 1 on a one hectare site at Tenchford Bridge, previously used as a horse paddock.  


Horsham Today


Tear Down The Barricades Country Life Thursday the 15th of November 2007 

In a revolutionary approach to estate management, Charlie Burrell has abandoned modern farming methods and taken down nearly all the fences on his 3,500-acre West Sussex estate, where the deer, cows and even pigs now roam free.  Indulgent fantasist or enlightened nature lover.

Sandy Mitchell goes to find out


On Your Farm BBC Radio 4 recording - Sunday the 28th of  October 2007

Elinor Goodman presents on your farm on the Knepp Castle Estate with gests Dr Tony Whitbread (Chief Executive of the Sussex Wildlife Trust), Jonathan Spencer (Senior Ecologist Forestry Commission), Ted Green MBE (Founder Member of the Ancient Tree Forum and Eco Worrier) and Charlie Burrell (Farmer). 

Produced by: Andrew Smith

A Ramblers Nightmare GAP News - Friday the 25th of May 2007

Ted Green takes a look at our treatment of the countryside, beginning with the free-ranging pigs at Knepp and taking in conservation grazing, vets, medicines, our food agencies, ecologists no-one get’s off lightly!

Ted Green a personal rant 

Recall of the wild  The Guardian - Wednesday the 9th of May 2007  

Conservation groups say they are in favour of restoring Britain's countryside to its former and wilder glory but have done little to back this up. Is it now up to private landowners to take action? 

Peter Marren reports

Home Counties Wildland   ECOS 27 - Tuesday the 3rd of April 2006 

The 3500 acre Knepp Estate is a mix of ancient parkland, woodland, arable and pasture. Five years ago its owner, Charlie Burrell, decided on a wildland project for the estate ‘where natural processes predominate and long term financial stability is achieved outside of a conventional agricultural framework’. The project is providing a baseline ecological and economic study for potential rewilding in the English lowlands. 

Peter Taylor reports

articles that may be of interest 
A Hero's Day Out at Petworth Knepp Castle Polo Year Book 2001

I have at last, after 7 years planning, got my Fallow Deer in the Knepp Park but what an adventure it was getting them there.

Charlie Burrell reports

papers that also might be of interest

Large herbivores in the wildwood and in modern naturalistic grazing systems

This report stems from work commissioned by English Nature into the role of large herbivores in the post-glacial landscape of Britain and the potential for using free-ranging grazing animals to create and maintain diverse landscape mosaics in modern conditions.

Some aspects may be disputed or considered controversial; it is an active field of research. Therefore we stress that the views expressed are those of the authors at the current time. 

Subsequent research may confirm our views or lead us to modify them. We hope they will be useful in future discussions, both within English Nature and in conservation land-management circles more generally.

Keith Kirby

English Nature, Northminster House, Peterborough, PE1 1UA

May 2005. Report Number 648

English Nature Research Reports












1344 KB PDF

The relevance of non-farmland habitats, uncropped areas and habitat diversity to the conservation of farmland birds


British Trust for Ornithology, The Nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk IP24 2PU, UK

Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Monks Wood, Abbots Ripton, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire PE28 2LS, UK

BTO report

Main BTO header image





115 KB PDF

A Guide to Animal Welfare in Nature Conservation Grazing

Grazing by domesticated stock is essential or highly desirable for the conservation of the vast majority of grassland and heathland habitats in the UK. However, modern livestock production systems, and the breeds associated with them, are seldom suitable for the low quality keep which occurs on many nature conservation sites.

by the Grazing Animal Project team

Grazing Animals Project





2006 KB PDF

A Living Landscape for the South East

The Ecological network approach to rebuilding for the 21st century

This is what the ecological network approach to rebuilding biodiversity is all about, and this document presents a vision of how it could be achieved in the South East. It has been put together to:

The Wildlife Trusts - Protecting Wildlife for the future © Dan Attwood





1300 MB PDF


Conservation Considerations Regarding the use of Avermectin animal health products

This Project Information Note provides an overview of the findings from recently completed PhD research funded by RSPB Scotland and SAC and conducted jointly between SAC, University of Glasgow and RSPB.

by LISA WEBB, South and West Scotland Advisory Officer, RSPB Scotland. DAVY McCRACKEN, Senior Agricultural Ecologist. SAC DAVE BEAUMONT, Senior Reserves Ecologist, RSPB Scotland. RUEDI NAGER, Senior Lecturer, University of Glasgow

The University of Glasgow




129 KB PDF

The restoration and re-creation of species-rich lowland grassland on land formerly managed for intensive agriculture in the UK

Intensive agriculture has resulted in the loss of biodiversity and the specialist flora and fauna associated with the semi-natural grasslands of low-intensity pastoral systems throughout northwest Europe.

by Kevin J. Walker a, Paul A. Stevens b, David P. Stevens c, J. Owen Mountford a, Sarah J. Manchester a, Richard F. Pywell




337 KB PDF


Code of Practice on How to Prevent the Spread of Ragwort

Ragwort is a native species of the British Isles. It is a specified weed under the Weeds Act 1959. It contains toxins which can have debilitating or fatal consequences, if eaten by horses and other grazing animals. Ragwort is less likely to be rejected by stock if dried and contamination of forage (hay, haylage and silage) is a particular problem. Humans may be at risk from ragwort poisoning through direct contact (e.g. hand pulling) or the consumption of contaminated food. Research undertaken for the Government in the 1990s suggested that the risk to human health in the UK through the contamination of staple foods i.e. grain, milk, eggs and honey is likely to be insignificant.









628 KB PDF

Large herbivores in the wildwood and modern naturalistic grazing systems

Frans Vera's book Grazing Ecology and Forest History challenges our views on the nature of the former natural landscape of Britain during the Atlantic period. Rather than closed woodland, he proposes that it was a half-open park-like landscape, in which large herbivores, such as wild cattle, were the main factors driving a cyclical turnover of vegetation. Grassland would become scrub and woodland, before turning back into grassland again. Is he right, and if so, what might be the implications for modern conservation?

Report Authors: K H Hodder, J M Bullock, P C Buckland , & K J Kirby, June 2005








Fresh woods and pastures new

English Nature is starting an exciting project to see how free-ranging cattle and other large herbivores could be used to create and maintain wildlife-rich mixed landscapes of woodland, scrub and open grassland or heath.

by Keith Kirby





162 KB


Tamworth pigs as ecological analogs of wild boar in a re-wilding scheme (Knepp)

The success of re-wilding schemes as a conservation tool is assumed to depend on the extent to which feral domestic herbivores can mimic the ecological effects of their wild ancestors. The Tamworth pig (Sus scrofa scrofa) has a semi-feral nature and rare breed status that makes it appealing for use in rewilding schemes. However, its ecological impacts, and the extent to which they are similar to those of wild boar, are unknown.

by Bournemouth University






444 KB PDF

Ant Hills in Acid Grassland

Ants are insects belonging to the family Formicidae, within the order Hymenoptera which also contains bees, wasps and sawflies. Ants are one of the dominant land organisms on earth, making up 10-15% of the entire animal biomass in most terrestrial habitats. One hectare of soil in the Amazonian rainforest contains more than 8 million ants. There are well over 11,000 species of ants worldwide, but only around 42 species are native to Britain.

By Nigel Reeve






775 KB PDF