The Knepp Wildland Project

The Knepp Wildland Project, is a re-wilding masterpiece located on a site of previously agricultural low Weald land near Horsham in Sussex, is a leading light in the conservation movement, an experiment that has already produced astonishing wildlife successes in relatively few growing seasons. Initial rewilding at Knepp began in 2000 and the site has evolved over the intervening years. The Knepp Wilding Kitchen & Farm Shop are both set to open later this summer. This development, water neutral and entirely powered by renewables, promises to become both a hub for food-loving visitors and an attractive hotbed of wildlife colonisation alike. We’re delighted that a Team from Graduate Landscapes is responsible for the restoration build of The Knepp Wilding Kitchen Courtyard, designed by Tom Stuart-Smith and under the guidance of Knepp Head Gardener Charlie Harpur. We’re excited about recent progress. Last week during a site visit, we observed sightings of both the beautifully iridescent Purple Emperor butterfly ( once in decline and now thriving in what is now the UK’s largest colony ) and Charlie Harpur himself, each of them appearing to be very much in their natural habitats.

The wilded courtyard is ‘emerging’, taking shape and form in front of the 18th Century Sussex barn, a beautiful structure and currently very much in its chrysalis phase, transforming from agricultural relic into vibrant and much-awaited restaurant. The sympathetically restored heritage barn looks out over reclaimed brickwork pathways, a central water feature and is surrounded by newly positioned gabions which wend their way over the weald to provide a boundary for this reimagined space. The gabions, wire mesh cages, are chock full of repurposed concrete reclaimed from the Knepp Estate and incorporate welcome nesting materials such as fallen timber for small insect life. All number of considerations are being taken to encourage wildlife to repopulate this space. Swallow and bat boxes have been added in to the barn eaves. Stork nest platforms affixed to the gate posts and, for the house martins, courtyard mud pools to bathe in. The Purple Emperor butterfly has a decadent and flavoursome taste in food. The can be seen at Knepp, diving for animal droppings and gathering minerals from the path surfaces. Though we were fortunate enough to witness one of these supremely pretty butterflies flutter past and briefly land on one of the nearby teasels in the scrub alongside the build, we weren’t quite quick enough, on this occasion at least, to capture this display on camera. Charlie Harpur, arriving by bike and moving at a slightly slower pace relative to size than the butterfly (!) we were able to photograph. Charlie was snapped in the wild and from a safe distance whilst discussing build progress with Petko, our Site Manager. For actual Knepp nature footage, there’s a whole YouTube channel of video clips, wildlife survey updates and sightings to entertain, enlighten and educate over on the cheekily named ‘Kneppflix’. There are clips of not only the Purple Emperor in action but also other examples of reintroduced species such as beaver, European bison, white stork, English Longhorn cattle and Tamworth pigs.