At 6.30 am On August 6, I was fortunate to accompany 12 local farmers and land managers on a bus. We drove the 5 hour jouney to Knepp Estate in Sussex on a bus.
Knepp Castle Estate comprises 3,500 acres of heavy weald clay in West Sussex. Though farmed intensively since WW2, the farm rarely made a profit. Rewilding has turned this around. Knepp has attracted support from Natural England through the Higher Level Stewardship scheme. And its focus on rewilding has prompted successful spin off enterprises. The farmland is now profitable.
From the start, the project benefitted from the vision of an influential advisory group. This included the Dutch ecologist Frans Vera and CEO of Sussex Wildlife Trust, Tony Whitbread
Knepp Wildland’s ethos is to allow natural processes rather than aiming for any particular goals or outcomes. Free-roaming grazing animals - cattle, ponies, pigs and deer - drive this process-led regeneration. They act as proxies for herbivores that would have grazed the land thousands of years ago. Their different grazing preferences help create a mosaic of habitats from grassland and scrub to open-grown trees and wood pasture.