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Knepp Wildland Project

Location:The Knepp Estate, West Sussex

Habitats:Scrub, Mixed woodland, Grassland

Livestock:Tamworth Pigs, Longhorn Cattle, Fallow Deer, Exmoor Ponies

In brief:Innovative re-wilding of arable land and historic deer park using low intensity livestock under a more natural grazing regime

Contact:Estate Office

Tel:+44 (0) 1403 741235

Email:enquiries@knepp.co.uk

Weblink:www.knepp.co.uk


The Knepp re-wilding project – using more natural grazing to drive landscape scale ecological processes.

The 3,500 acre Knepp Castle Estate has been the family home of the Burrells for over 200 years. The land is a gently undulating area on Low Weald clay, most of which was under intensive arable and dairy farming until 2001, when there was a complete change of focus.

Since then, almost all the arable land has been taken out of production and dairy farming has ceased. The Estate has been fenced with stock-proof fencing and much of it is now grazed with low numbers of longhorn cattle, Exmoor ponies, Tamworth pigs and fallow deer. Roe deer and rabbits are also present, as in the wider countryside. The overall aim of the project is to let the land ‘rewild’ as far as possible, allowing the livestock to drive natural dynamic processes. This in turn is hoped to benefit nature conservation, as well as restoring a more natural landscape.

The grazing regime

The grazing regime is one of minimal intervention, with animals free to roam throughout the year, through grassland, woodland and wetter areas. No supplementary feed is given. The aim is for them to behave as naturally as possible. However, the project does have to operate within certain constraints. Animal welfare issues are paramount, and in order to achieve the more natural grazing regime and to comply with UK legislation, Knepp has worked closely with GAP. The Estate also needs an income, and aims to sell its beef, pork and venison. It is intended that culling for meat may go some way to compensate for the lack of natural predators.

National and International interest / Scientific importance

This project is in many ways unique. The potential for biodiversity enhancement and research on grazers and their effects on landscape dynamics is considerable. It has attracted interest and participation from a number of organisations and individuals, many of which have contributed time, funding and invaluable advice. A baseline ecological survey was carried out in 2005 and there is an on-going programme of further survey and monitoring. This will enable changes over time to be interpreted. The project is also dealing with issues such as public education, which is aimed at informing both the general public and adjacent neighbours.

Much of the land is under CSS, and the restoration of the historic deer park surrounding the Castle itself has been funded by Defra. Natural England and Sussex Wildlife Trust have also contributed funding.