Friday, April 29, 2022

Knepp Safari 2022

Knepp Wildland Safaris, West Sussex, UK. Wednesday / Thursday 27/28-April-2022.  

This was our third visit to Knepp and it was as good as ever. We booked way back in September 2021 as soon as they released the dates. Mary was keen to do a Nightingale Safari and stay in one of the glamping options, preferably one of the yurts, The Turtle Dove, which has a fantastic position and outlook. Mary pounced as soon as the dates were opened up and this was the only date where a safari and accommodation (unfortunately only one of the bell tents) were available so we snapped them up. This pushed back our original planned date for returning to Italy for the summer.

It was a bit of a road trip; we drove all the way down from Penrith on the Wednesday, stayed two nights, and then drove all the way back up to Penrith on the bank holiday Friday.

Our tent was set in beautiful bluebell woods.

The tent itself was a permanent structure on a raised platform.

The interior had a proper double bed with a heavyweight duvet, sofa and chairs and a wood burning stove.

It was cold when we arrived but was soon lovely and warm thanks to the stove.

Wednesday night we had an excellent meal in the nearby Crown Inn and an early night because the first of two safaris was at dawn the next morning. On the walk to the pub we passed a small herd of red deer.

They were seemingly unperturbed by our presence.

Next morning the alarm went off at 5 o’clock for a 5:15 assemble with our guide. It was basically a gentle ramble round the estate with an introduction to the history of the whole re-wilding project, which we knew having been before and read the book. 

The dawn chorus was in full voice. Our guide kept pointing out nightingale song but we struggled to distinguish it from all the other birdsong.

We saw a variety of habitat, some deer and a longhorn cow with newborn calf.

After the walk I had a Hatha Yoga class in the Yoga Garden - a yurt like structure in the grounds. 

After we got back we discovered that the lid of one of our tea and coffee mugs had fallen out of my pocket. So we retraced our route, found it at the farthest point and continued to repeat most of the morning’s route. On the way round we came across a field with longhorn cattle, several Tamworth sows and a whole bunch of cute piglets all leaping about with youthful enthusiasm.

Got back from this second walk to discover that Mary‘s photos of the piglets had not come out because she had failed to press the button on her camera firmly enough so we went out again after lunch for the third time! This time we came across the same piglets without the cattle and got some excellent photos. We hid behind a clump of brambles but the piglets saw us and came inquisitively trotting over to have a look at us. 

Piglets charge!

Piglets regroup.

That was fine until mum turned and started to amble towards us so we thought it best to beat a retreat.

Signs of pig rootling – they are nature’s rotavators and plough up the ground which is good for margin loving plants and in turn the insect and birds that are specific to those habitats.

Stork reintroduction is the latest success story at Knepp with 37 eggs across nine nests this year. 

On our way back to the tent we passed several herds of fallow deer.

The evenings excursion was the much anticipated Nightingale Safari. They are a rare bird but making a comeback at this estate. They are also one of the few birds that sing at night. Apparently they migrate at night and it is the males in the trees, having selected a territory, that are singing to attract a female down from out of the sky.

Included in the safari was supper cooked by one of the staff. Vegetarian (or possibly even vegan)  it was based on a middle eastern theme: chickpea salad, couscous, spicy vegetable dish, green salad, a glass of wine and pudding. 

We then set off on the Safari armed with torches and spent another couple of hours walking round the estate pausing at various points to listen to the nightingales' long and complex repertoire of song. By the time we got back at midnight we were ready for our bed.

Nightingale song:

All in all it was a magical experience.

Epilogue: Next morning it was breakfast and the long trek home. What with holiday weekend traffic, road works and accidents it took about seven and a half hours. That made us decide to book the train down to Gatwick for our return to Italy the following week.

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