Nick Herbert visits Knepp Wildland Project

Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert went on “safari” on Tuesday afternoon (11 August) during a visit to the wildland project managed by the Knepp Castle Estate near West Grinstead.

The ground-breaking re-wilding project is being run by estate owner Charlie Burrell who gave the Shadow Environment Secretary an extensive tour of the 3,500 acre site.

The aim of the project is to return the land to its natural state after many years of intensive farming and to allow grazing animals such as longhorn cattle, Tamworth pigs, Exmoor ponies and fallow deer to roam as freely as possible with minimal human intervention.

Mr Herbert was told about plans to allow the River Adur - which was canalised in the eighteenth century - to return to its natural meander, thereby allowing the return of seasonal flooding.  This will encourage a greater variety of aquatic and marshland plants, insect life, amphibians and wading birds.

There will also be work to restore former wetland areas on the estate including old ponds and water meadows that were sacrificed to farming.

Since the project began in 2001, a number of rare species have already been spotted on the site including the common blue butterfly - sadly no longer common in Britain despite its name.

The project has generated considerable interest from scientists, governments and organisations across Europe and received support from Natural England, the Environment Agency, Sussex Wildlife Trust, the British Trust for Ornithology, the National Trust and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.

Charlie Burrell commented: "It was a delight meeting Nick Herbert.  His understanding of agriculture and ecology is so refreshing.  He immediately clicked with what we're trying to do here at Knepp.  I really feel it's important we have politicians like this who can see into the future."

Nick Herbert commented: "I'm grateful to Charlie for sparing so much of his time to show me around the estate.  It was fascinating to see how the landscape has already changed in the short time since the wildland project was started.  And I'm not surprised that it has generated so much interest.  It's a project that will provide great inspiration to people who care about the countryside and want to reverse the decline in our biodiversity."

Mr Herbert added: "I was delighted to learn that Charlie has agreed to contribute to the ongoing debate over the future of our landscape, habitats and wildlife through the Future Countryside website ( that I have set up.  He has a great deal of knowledge and expertise to offer."

The Knepp Castle Estate has recently thrown its weight behind opposition to the proposed landfill site at Laybrook Brickworks which lies to the west of the wildland project.  Mr Burrell has said that a landfill site will threaten the project's survival and fly in the face of efforts to clean up the environment.



Notes for Editors

1. For more information on the wildland project, visit the Knepp Castle Estate's website at

2. For the website of Future Countryside, visit

3. In the photograph Nick Herbert (left) is shown with Charlie Burrell.

Christopher N Howarth