knepp conservation projects

If you would like to read the Annual Newsletter on the Wildland please click on the following link for  2011 (0.9MB) or  2010 (0.6MB)


We have set about restoring an old SNCI meadow that was planted up with trees 25 years ago
Stream back in old meander


Putting up barn owl boxes up October 2006


One of the fourteen sites the beetle survey was carried out -  the summer of 2005 - this particular site on the river Adur produced a rare beetle called Chlaenius nigricornis (Nb = Notable b, only recorded from between 30 and 100 10km squares in the UK) (see beetle survey)


Exmoor ponies crossing the river Adur  - we hope that the river will flood much more often after the "re-wilding" project


Restoration of a flooding system that would have gone on before agricultural improvements were made to land drainage


Ant Hills on Brookhouse Scrapes - some of these ant hills are half a meter high. Read more about these ants in this very good Royal Parks document. 

Ant Hills in acid grassland




The collapse of agricultural profitability between 1996 and 2006 had a dramatic impact on the Knepp Estate and led us to make very significant changes in the way we looked at and managed our land. We decided the time had come to abandon the way we had farmed for many decades. It was sad to change our farming practice after so many generations (see Farming), but exciting new opportunities have opened up in the arena of land regeneration, wildlife conservation and educational facilities – as well as allowing us to put into practice new ways of meat production. This has been and continues to be is an invigorating and challenging way forward for us. 

The projects we have already embarked upon and that we are planning for the future are taking the Estate into a pioneering position in ecological land management.  We are designing these projects to explore alternative ways by which unproductive ex-agricultural land such as ours can be looked after at a low cost while conferring considerable benefits on the landscape value and wildlife of the British countryside. At the same time, we have to ensure that the Estate is economically viable.  We are producing high quality beef, pork and venison (see Home Grown web link) and are constantly reviewing other ways to bring in income. We are working towards sustainability and to ensure that our economically successful projects support rather than conflict with our conservation projects.

Historic Park Restoration

The first of these projects – the restoration of 750 acres of the old park designed by Humphrey Repton around the house – started in 2001 and saw the introduction of fallow deer, Exmoor ponies, old English longhorn cattle and Tamworth pigs as part of the new ecological grazing system. This has been followed by the extension of the grazing system by an additional 750 acres north of the A272 in 2005, and a further 1000 acres in 2009.

Wildland Project

The restoration of the park was so successful that it encouraged us to consider turning over most of the Estate to a similar grazing system.  This has become known as the Wildland Project.


As part of the Wildland Project we are studying key species of existing flora and fauna on the Estate so we can have a record of what happens to populations and distribution with the new grazing system in place.  A baseline survey was carried out in 2005 baseline weblink, and there is an ongoing programme of surveys and research. (see the June 2007 Owl ringing results).

River Adur Restoration Project

An exciting aspect of the Wildland Project is the ‘re-wilding’ of the River Adur – allowing the river to return to its natural meanders after three centuries of being directed into a canal.  This will return the old water lags to a natural flood plain system and, we anticipate, encourage a much richer diversity of wildlife and plants.

Knepp Mill Pond Restoration Project

Knepp Mill Pond, also known as Knepp Lake, is a stunning feature of the Estate but is in imminent danger of silting up entirely.  Within the next ten years we hope to extract some of the silt that has built up over the past four centuries, thus preserving at least 30 acres of open water and a habitat for the profusion of resident and visiting water-birds and associated wildlife.  

Black Poplar (populus nigra subsp betulifolia)

In Britain there are thought to be about 7,000 black poplars left and out of this number only perhaps as little as 600 of them are female. This makes this native tree one of the most endangered tree species. At Knepp we have over 250 acres of floodplain that may be suitable for this riparian species. We also have our Tamworth pigs. One of the reasons sited for the decline in this wonderful tree is the lack of open ground needed for the seed to set in. Perhaps one of the missing ingredients is the rootling of the pig?

Knepp has been planting cuttings and saplings for the last 5 years (2009)  from cuttings taken from 26 trees being grown in the nursery at Wakehurst Place. If you would like to know more on this project click on (Black Poplar - Species Action Plan for Sussex pdf 967KB)

An area of the estate that has been allowed to "scrub up" - in 1990 - this area was dairy pasture now it has ant hills half a meter high. The ploughed strip to the right of the picture was sown with wild bird seed cover in 2006 - predominantly planted with quinoa and sorghum.  An experiment that will probably not be repeated.


Knepp Wildland Project

Year 10 for the re-wilding project

Click Below

A paper published for a Ted Green Lecture at Sheffield Hallam 2011 1.5MB

Written by Theresa Greenaway November 2011.



Read Royal Parks document 

Ant Hills in acid grassland - click on the Ant below