Camping at Knepp Safaris in West Sussex
In April 2019 I happened to pick up a copy of Wilding by Isabella Tree in my local Waterstones, I have to admit it was the beautiful front cover that caught my attention. As soon as I started reading this book I knew I wanted to visit Knepp Estate and see it with my own eyes.
At the end of September 2019 I went on a solo camping trip to Knepp Safaris near Horsham, West Sussex. At Knepp Safaris you can stay in Shepherd’s huts, yurts and treehouses or you can camp in a meadow, which is what I choose to do.
I haven’t been camping for about 20 years but I borrowed a friend’s tent and pitched up in the meadow at Knepp Safaris. The weather on my night there at the end of September was very windy and rainy. The facilities at the Go-Down were lovely, there were comfy sofas, a wood-burning stove, a kettle for making tea, free Wi-Fi and plug sockets to charge your phone. There are also indoor showers, a drying room and toilets at the Go-down, if you don’t fancy the open-air hot water showers and baths.
Half day Safari
Part of the reason I went to Knepp at the end of September was that I wanted to go on a Knepp Safari and I happened to book on one of the Safaris that were released in the middle of the year. We started out in the Cow Barn, where we watched a video about the history of Knepp and how the project has developed over time. We then got into the 14 seater Pinzgauer (Austrian Troop Carrier) and headed out into the Wildland area of the estate. Our guide (ecologist) was incredibly knowledgeable about the project and all the wildlife. We saw white storks, red deer stags, a slow worm, a hobby, a green woodpecker and lots of other birds. Halfway round we had tea, coffee, and a homemade chocolate brownie on a platform in a huge oak tree.
Chapter 1 of Wilding starts with the ancient oaks at Knepp being inspected by Ted Green and it was this event in 1999 that “was the beginning for us of a new way of thinking” and the start of the wilding of Knepp Estate. An ancient oak is said to support 280 different insect species alone, which will then feed birds and other animals. Around Knepp Estate there are 6 Tree Platforms in oak trees, where you can see views across the Wildland. To be in the oak tree canopy is an incredible experience even in the rain.
White Stork Reintroduction
At Knepp you can see some of the White Storks that are part of a reintroduction program, which aims to establish a breeding population of White Storks in the UK. The White Storks you will see flying around at Knepp are originally from Warsaw Zoo. For more information about the project take a look at the Knepp Wildland website. It was amazing to see the White Storks flying around when I was walking around the estate unfortunately I didn’t get any good photos.
After the safari in the morning and once I had got my tent packed back in the car, I decided I would go for a walk around Knepp, there are a number of different footpaths of varying lengths from 3.2 km to 8.8 km. I decided to do the 8.8 km Castle walk, as I wanted to see as much as I could before driving to London. The walk took me past the old Knepp Castle and the modern Knepp Castle, I saw lots of Longhorn Cattle and deer.
There was a beautiful old tree that had fallen and been left to decay as this is a brilliant habitat for insects, which is rare in the UK, as we have a tendency to tidy away any fallen trees and decaying wood. If you live within driving distance of Knepp you can park at the walker’s car park before you get to Knepp Safaris and go for a walk around the estate along the public footpaths.
Biodiversity at Knepp
The end of September is not the best time to see the full range of biodiversity at Knepp and the rutting season hadn’t quite started either. Knepp has many rare species.
- Purple Emperor Butterflies are seen from the end of June to July
- Nightingales begin to arrive in early April and can be heard singing until late May/early June
- Turtle doves arrive in late April/May and leave again between July and September.
In January 2020 Knepp obtained a license to re-introduce beavers to the estate, it is not sure yet when the beavers will be at Knepp, as fences need to be erected. The beavers should be introduced in either Spring or Autumn of 2020.
I want to go back to Knepp in 2020 to see Purple Emperor Butterflies and go wild swimming in the lake.
For information about camping at Knepp Safaris check out there website.