The whole country is talking about the rotten
weather that we are experiencing but happily
as we write this on the 11 April, the first
swallows have been seen at Knepp, so despite
the fact that we are well into April and the
grass has just started to grow, there is at
least some hope that spring is around the
– We have a fairly static workforce, which
on the whole has been growing steadily over
the past few years.
Except for two ghastly tragedies in
the last five years, normally the “staff
news” section reports on the arrival of
babies, so it comes with great sadness that
we report on the following staff changes:
Mark Bateman who has looked after Charlie’s polo
ponies for the last 14 years is calling it a
day, but at least he will be staying on at
Mark has recently had some pretty
major heart surgery, albeit you wouldn’t
know it as he is making a remarkable
Simon Hillery took over from his brother six years
ago as gardener, and has overseen the
transformation of the walled garden from a
derelict state to something that we are now
opening to the public.
We wish them both our best wishes for their future
Kathy Baker who also assisted in the Castle for many
years has retired.
In fairness she has been trying to
retire for the last decade, but we had a
lovely farewell celebration with her in the
Castle in March.
Adrian Weller who has managed the deer park superbly
for the last decade is handing over to
Daniel inherits the deer herds in a
fabulous state with some of the best bucks
recorded anywhere so there will be quite a
lot of pressure on him to maintain Adrian’s
good work in selecting the breeding to
ensure that the reputation of our fallow
Meanwhile, Hannah has come and gone again, having
spent the winter with us she has now
disappeared back to Scotland.
John and Amy have taken up her work
on GIS and other wildland related projects
and we hope very soon to have the Estate’s
vegetation fully recorded by aerial
photography and GIS mapping.
– is it or isn’t it?
We closed the Polo Club at the end of
last season only to have interest expressed
by a third party to take it on again.
With great fanfare they announced in
the polo press that they were revitalising
the club only to withdraw their interest
again last month.
However in the last few weeks Sarah
Wiseman of Aspect Polo has taken on the
running of a polo club and will be
using the Knepp Castle Polo Club brand.
So we are pleased to say that once
again a Polo Club will be functioning in the
vicinity, albeit nor really based at Knepp
Meanwhile most of our polo fields
have been turned back into agriculture and
our polo equipment and horses have been sold
so it is somewhat the end of an era.
– this is now 90% complete.
The Environment Agency are due to
return any day, weather permitting, to
complete the stretch between Knepp Mill
Cottages and the A24, but otherwise the
realignment of the channel and the creation
of the new bridge over the flood plain is
finished and we will be having an open day
(with more fanfare!) in the weeks or months
A part of this project is the
creation of a new permissive footpath along
our farm track from Pound Farm into the
This has been resurfaced now and over
the weeks ahead new access furniture will be
installed to ensure that walkers wishing to
view the river project but keep their feet
dry can easily use it.
– for those who keep a close eye on what we
are doing, they will have seen that one of
our new viewing platforms has been three
quarters completed near Dial Post.
Work has halted due to red tape but
will start again soon…hopefully.
A further five viewing structures are
to be constructed and two of these will be
on the river to enable the public to observe
Lake dredging project
– we received consent last year to dredge
the main lake at Knepp.
This is a vast project and will take
several years to come to fruition.
Part of the project is to construct
some earth banks along the A24 near Buck
Barn Garage, and work on this element of the
project is due to start imminently.
A hedgerow has been coppiced from
Buck Barn to Pondtail to enable a new access
road for the lorries creating the earth
banks to come and go from the site in a safe
The next stage is for the electric
cables that cross the area to be buried and
after that the new access road will be
installed and work will commence.
– Richard Symonds has produced a fascinating
paper on “The Former Mills of The Knepp
Much of this focuses on the lake, and
is available to download from this link
Broadband for Pondtail
As reported last time, the Estate has invested in fibre optic
broadband for the offices at Pondtail Farm,
and this is going live any day.
The fibre has the ability to deliver
100mb of un-contended broadband to these
offices which we hope will enable the
companies that are based there to embrace
the latest technologies.
– the cold spring and relentless rain has
taken a toll on the animals.
The male fallow deer (bucks), which
struggle in a good winter because they lose
so much of their body weight during the rut,
look thoroughly miserable this year.
The cattle in all three parks, which
have just started to calve, are in worse
condition this year than in any of the
previous, even those where we have had lots
This led us to start to feed them a
couple of weeks ago due to the lack of grass
This is the first time that we have
had to feed the cattle in a decade, except
on the two occasions where thick and
prolonged snow led us to putting out some
The pigs have been farrowing away merrily but the
weather has also had a big impact on them,
and we have decided to reduce our pig
numbers going forward and will probably
reduce them down to a couple of sows for a
few years so that we maintain our bloodline.
Therefore there are sausages for sale
in the months ahead! (Contact
firstname.lastname@example.org if you are an
The final bit of livestock news is a little bit more
exciting in that we have introduced Red Deer
- a small herd of females so far (hinds) to
the parks and these arrived from Gunton Park
on the 11 April.
These wonderful creatures complete
the mix of herbivores that manage the
vegetation in our wildland project.
A decision to have them was made at
the last Advisory Group Meeting when it was
agreed that their impact on the emerging
scrub would be useful as the very low
stocking density of cattle and fallow deer.
Ultimately the project needs a few more
browsers eating the scrub.
– whilst we are sure it has been a dreadful
twelve months for our native wildlife
throughout the British Isles, looking at the
BTO's published figures,
Knepp probably has just under 1% all of the
nations breeding pairs of nightingales, a
staggering statistic and a massive
endorsement for our project.
Elsewhere on the Estate, Ben Rainbow’s Ecological
Survey of Crabtree Platt, a remnant
wildflower meadow, can be viewed on this
link, as you will see, the SNCI is
in decline, but thanks to a passionate
advocate of wildflower meadows Dave Bangs
contacting us a couple of years ago, we are
taking steps to restore the meadow to try to
reverse the decline.
In line with Ben’s recommendations, a
volunteer group successfully laid hedges
– the Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre and
the Knepp Estate are organising a Recording
Weekend on 1st & 2nd
June with volunteers involved with the
Record Centre aiming to add to the wealth of
data on species present.
– the Shipley Apple Group, which runs the
Community Orchard and maintains other
orchards around the Parish, have been
hampered by the weather.
The pruning day had to be delayed
once due to frost and then the tree-planting
day had to be further delayed because of the
incessant rain and cold weather.
The good news is that this type of
weather cycle is generally fairly positive
for fruit growers I gather because the cold
spring delays early blossoms which
subsequently get burnt off, so hopefully as
least we can look forward to a bumper fruit
crop this year.
– the Explorers (an arm of the scouts) had a
wonderful camping weekend near the Bothy in
Our first open days of the year have
commenced with Plaistow School & Radnorshire
We already have a pretty full
calendar for tours this year with our next
public event being on 9th June
(Open Farm Sunday -
please register with
Sandra@knepp.co.uk if you want to
We will probably also be running some
tractor tours during the Floral Fringe Fair
weekend on the 1st & 2nd
June, albeit these will probably be more
like a trip around the park rather than
anything specific to look at the wildland
At the Floral Fringe Fair we will be
unveiling our new interpretation boards
which have taken about ten years to get off
the drawing board!
These are going to be located around
the wildland project to explain what it is
all about for the footpath user.
Some will be specific ie. boards for
the River Project, the Knepp Mill Pond and
the Norman Castle, whilst the bulk of them
will be generic explaining the wildland
– Planting oak trees in pairs in the park
might have been a Repton thing at Knepp, or
just accidental, but the tradition was
continued by Charlie’s forbears so that
around the circle in front of the castle,
pairs of oaks of differing ages fight with
eachother for supremacy.
One of the pair usually wins but
causes the other to bend and twist.
Anyway, Charlie and Ned took the
chainsaw to this tradition over Easter and
now the next generation of oaks in front of
the castle will be single trees!
on the 24th February, with the
wind whisking straight from the Urals, Peter
Miller’s ashes were laid to rest in the
roots of a young Oak tree on Brick Kiln
Farm, almost two years after his untimely
The smartest tree guard anyone has
ever seen will ensure that the tree gets off
to a good start, and with views of
Chanctonbury Ring, Peter’s final resting
place could not have been better.
best of luck to Nancy Burrell who sits her A
levels over the next few weeks
you would like to read the Annual Newsletter
on the Wildland please click on the
following link for