Knepp Wildland

A pioneering rewilding project comprising 1400 ha of former arable and dairy farm land in SE England using herds of free-roaming ungulates to drive habitat generation. Focusing on restoring dynamic natural processes, in just 14 years the project has seen a spontaneous revival of many rare species.

Feral cattle grazing at Knepp Wildland

Area

  • Habitat types: Ancient woodland and wood pasture through to emerging scrub and grassland, including lakes, rivers and water meadows.
  • Keystone species present: Nightingale, purple emperor butterfly, turtle dove, Bechstein and barbastelle bats, lesser spotted woodpecker, cuckoo, phellinus robustus, and beetles such as hedobia imperialis, korynetes caeruleus, calambus bipustulatus, corticeus unicolor, dromius agilis, phellinus populicola, agathidium nigripenne
  • Fauna (mega) species present: Old English longhorn cattle, Exmoor ponies, Tamworth pigs, red deer, fallow deer and roe deer
  • Fauna species reintroduced: Old English longhorn cattle, Exmoor ponies, Tamworth pigs, red deer and fallow deer
  • Vegetation types present: The soil is heavy Weald clay, most of which was under intensive arable and dairy farming until 2001. Vegetation is arable and grassland reversion with a complex plant assemblage, and features notable resurgences such as large stands of sallow

Scope

  • Type of project: Large-scale rehabilitations of natural processes, including herbivores, carnivores and/or scavengers being present, Methods and experiences to allow natural numbers and densities of native, wild or rewilded species, Projects based on a stewardship anchored in respect for land, water, and all living things, with a management striving to support natural processes and utilize nature’s own mechanism, Successful agreements with water management entities about changing water management methods to allow for natural processes, Successful examples of enterprises that are based on economic values of the wild and that contribute to rewilding through generating revenues, business, jobs and income
  • Description: Knepp is a UK govt sponsored pilot project aimed at restoring dynamic natural processes on land not ideally suited to intensive agriculture. Pivotal to this is the action of free-roaming ungulates driving a mosaic of habitat regeneration. Restoration of rivers, streams and ditches with the creation of clean water scrapes are also key. Involvement of local community includes volunteer days and school visits. Guided safaris, camping and organic meat brings in revenue and employment.
  • Aim: To study and monitor the natural processes and results of a non-goal orientated rewilding project (including affects arising from the absence of apex predators), and to provide a working model that can influence and inform other similar conservation projects both in public and private hands.
  • Vision: Knepp as a major hotspot of biodiversity to seed connected areas of conservation within a living landscape; and as a means to provide ecosystems services like carbon sequestration, ethical, organic, pasture-fed meat, clean water and flood mitigation, and an uplifting experience for the public.
  • Accomplished in 10 years from now: To have secured government support to continue our process-led, open-ended project; to have become a flagship for similar free-willed projects; to have provided inspiration to the pasture-fed movement; furthering knowledge on the habitat and behaviour of threatened species.
  • Uniqueness: Knepp is the first lowland re-wilding project of significant scale in England. Using five species of grazing megafauna to demonstrable effect the Knepp system provides a new tool to the conservation box. Privately owned and free-willed it is in a strong position to influence other private landowners
  • Results so far: Our process-led approach has already given rise to remarkable new observations made by scientists studying at Knepp of the behaviour and habitat preferences of species like the UK nightingale and purple emperor butterfly. This is changing the way we can mitigate for the loss of habitat for these species. We have now become a national or regional hotspot for numerous threatened species of birds, reptiles, bats, insects and fungi.
  • Flagship species: Feral cattle
  • Other characteristics: Community involved, Eco tourism, Education, Recreational activities, Research, Sale of sustainable products

Exchange

  • Inspirational value: Unique, pioneering and successful after fourteen years Knepp Wildland provides a model for like-minded NGOs and private landowners, as well as an uplifting and eye-opening experience for visitors. Reversing a trend in species decline inspires and thrills all those who come in contact with it.
  • Experience you would like to share: Watching our de-domesticated Tamworth pigs submerged in the water like hippos, seeking out swan mussels at the bottom of the lake - just one in numerous unexpected happenings.
  • Experience you would like to gain: What would it be like to have lynx roaming around, eating our rabbits and adding that missing predatory dynamism?

Video