Trip reports

Reserve Visit: Knepp Wilding

Turtle dove

Saturday, 18 May 2019

"Knepp is a 3,500 acre estate just south of Horsham, West Sussex. Since 2001, the land - once intensively farmed - has been devoted to a pioneering rewilding project. Using grazing animals as the drivers of habitat creation, and with the restoration of dynamic, natural water courses, the project has seen extraordinary increases in wildlife. Extremely rare species like turtle dove, nightingales, peregrine falcons and purple emperor butterflies are now breeding here; and populations of more common species are rocketing".
Well that what it said on their website and that is certainly what you get! We did see turtle dove, cuckoo - we walked past the longhorn cattle - came across deer roaming - listened to birdsong all day long, though the pigs remained elusive for most of us and unfortunately we were too early for the purple emperors.

The welcome on arrival was warm with coffee and biscuits followed by an introductory DVD, then an update in a short talk by Tom (one of the guides). We then split into two groups - one led by Tom and the other by his colleague Tegan - for a ramble around the Estate paths with our guides pointing out areas of interest, and also discussing the management work they carry out and successes achieved. It is clearly working well with the selected animals achieving what managed farming had earlier destroyed. A typical "achievement" was that the cattle dung is now home and food store to dung beetles and other insects - whereas previously it was sterile due to cattle inoculation and use of antibiotics. After lunch we split into smaller groups to roam around this amazing "re-wilded" area on our own before re-joining our coach for the home journey. a really most enjoyable day out.

Birds observed were: blackbird, blackcap, buzzard, carrion crow, chaffinch, chiffchaff, coot, cuckoo, collared dove, stock dove, turtle dove (pictured), tufted duck, dunnock, goldfinch, Canada goose, Egyptian goose, great crested grebe, grey heron, jackdaw, jay, kestrel, lapwing, magpie, mallard, moorhen, nightingale (heard), robin, house sparrow, starling, white stork, swallow, mute swan, swift, blue tit, great tit, long tailed tit, mistle thrush, song thrush, pied wagtail, Cetti's warbler (heard), whitethroat, wood pigeon, wren, great spotted woodpecker, green woodpecker and yellow hammer. Not bad for a trip which wasn't to a reserve and no hides.

Tony Vass