Thursday, 12 April 2012

K is for Knepp Castle, West Sussex

This medieval castle’s name is thought to have come through from the Old English word “cnaep” referring to the mound on which it stands, a natural hill, surrounded by a ditch and ramparts – while the actual castle was originally a motte and bailey fortress.
Knepp Castle - the remains

It was built in the 12th C by William de Braose, who owned land in the Welsh Marches, Devon, and as here in Sussex.  

He acquired his wealth as a Marcher Lord – a strong and trusted noble appointed by the King of England to guard the border between England and Wales.

Exmoor pony
A succession of Royal visitors came to the castle, including Henry III in 1218, Edward II in 1324, and Richard II in 1384.  Subsequently it fell into decline and deteriorated, most had been destroyed by the 1720s.

Sir Merrik Burrell, 1st Baronet was a British politician, who purchased the estates.  He had become Governor of the Bank of England from 1758 – 1760, and was subsequently awarded with his Baronetcy.

(As a Baronet, his title assumed ‘a special remainder to the heirs male' of his older brother Peter – Merrik dying in 1787 unmarried and childless.   For further information please check out Wikipedia – Baronet.)

Knepp Castle today
The Burrell family home, now known as Knepp Castle, is a castellated Gothick mansion built nearby in the early 1800s to the designs of John Nash, and remains their family residence to this day.
Tamworth Pig

Recently the Burrells shifted their focus of land management to regeneration and restorative projects aimed primarily at land and nature conservation.

Tamworths in a
Woodland Glade
The rationale of the Knepp Wildland Project is to restore most of the 3,500 acres of land to the state it enjoyed before intensive agriculture took its toll, and to allow the grazing animals to drive habitat changes by letting them roam as freely as possible with minimal human intervention. 

This project is contributing to scientific research both of the land and of the rare breeds being sustained as naturally as possible.

Green Woodpecker
Hardy Tamworth Pigs roam free disturbing the grass swards (dense glades or meadows) – allowing annual and bi-annual plants to colonize bare ground, and insect species to flourish.

Exmoor ponies are directly descended from the European prehistoric horse.

The ant is a surprising necessary component to the well-being of the landscape – in this case the Yellow Meadow Ant – much loved by Green Woodpeckers ... for more information there is a fascinating article on Ant Hills within the Knepp Castle website.

So Knepp Castle has rejuvenated itself for the 21st Century into a thriving Estate incorporating

Ø the Wildland Project
Ø Farming
Ø Woodland
Ø Polo
Ø horses
Ø property rental
Ø Garlic Wood Farm shop 

Ant Hill in natural
with its aim of providing a reference point from which to gauge changes in flora and fauna population and distribution – which help us all in the stewardship of our beautiful British landscapes.

That is K for Knepp Castle ... an innovative concept in 21st land management on a ‘castled’ estate that has evolved over time ...  part of the ABC series on Aspects of British Castles

Bob Scotney featured Johnstone Castle, Scotland yesterday
Longhorn cattle roam free

Knepp Castle - their website contains information on their conservation wildland project, including the document by the Royal Parks on Ants and Anthills. The photos were also obtained from their site.

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories


  1. What a wonderful thing the Wildland Project is.

  2. I love the "K is for" theme. I am often singing an alphabet song with my infant son and this is a new K word for both of us. Many thanks for sharing these wonderful insights and expanding our vocabulary. There is an infinite sea of light and love taking shape in all we focus on. We are not only seeing the points you make in the article, but also what this moment invites us to feel into the deeper truth about ourselves. Its all blessings revealing themselves

  3. What an interesting story. How intriguing to watch the reinvention over the centuries. Thank you for this.

  4. This was another great examle of our heritage, Loved the pics also.

    Have a good day Hilary,


  5. Good to see it's thriving and doing good work. There really is not much left of the original castle is there? I do prefer ruined castles to complete ones, though, as you can use your imagination to picture what existed.

  6. haaaaa...those longhorns look substantially different from the longhorn in the U.S.

    The body looks quite similar, but the horns are WAY different.

    Thanks for sharing Hilary...

    In Him,

  7. That looks like a good place to visit. And I love the idea that it's called after its own hill! (You know about Pendle Hill, don't you?)

  8. Oh wow! What a great way to rejuvenate a castle and its land!! Yay for Knepp Castle and its legacy!!

    Take care

  9. What a great post! Your posts are always so informative, which I appreciate. Plus, the pig is cute.

  10. This is a fascinating post, Hilary. I hadn't heard of Knepp. What a treat to see so much being done in its grounds. Loved the Tamworths and the longhorns.
    (We differed again)

  11. @ Sarah - yes I agree .. the Wildland Project will be fascinating to monitor ..

    @ Liara - I think it's wonderful that you're opening your son's eyes and ears to all these new words .. and singing with him.

    Seeing beyond what I write - is important for all of us at all times when we're reading, listening, looking .. as you say blessings reveal themselves.

    @ Amanda - all castles have so much history .. and so much they could help with now .. meadows for our insect life ..

    @ Yvonne - many thanks - it's all the fabric of our heritage isn't it .. thanks re the pics ...

    @ Nick - there is very little left of this castle .. however the family has done much for the land, despite the castellated Gothick mansion they built, and I love the idea of this project.

    I think this castle in its present state would be difficult to imagine ...

    @ Grace - our longhorns are very different aren't they .. your Texas Longhorns were originally a mix of feral Mexican animals and the eastern imported breeds - thanks for mentioning the two sorts.

    @ Anne - I didn't know about Pendle Hill - but having looked at the etymology .. it's so interesting our language. I'm a southerner! Except we did spend time as kids in the Lake District ..

    Thanks for enlightening me .. Cumbric 'pen' and Old English 'hyll' .. with the actual Hill being appended later.

    @ Old Kitty - isn't it wonderful that the castle lands can be returned to ancient pasture, with delicious healthy breeds for meat, while being monitored and providing research for the future.

    @ Rebecca- delighted you enjoy the posts .. and I too have a love of pigs! Hence the animals were put in ...

    Cheers - many thanks for your visits and comments - Hilary

  12. All the conservation they are doing is really cool. I love that they let the cattle roam free. And those pigs...!

  13. I love to hear people are doing this again. Letting animals live free in nature like that.
    Here I am not sure they would survive as we have a lot of wolves bob cats and bears. They would have to be very inventive. Of course you know animals become inventive when it comes to their lives.

  14. I love this. I wish more landowners took this approach.

  15. Excellent post and delighted to hear the wildland efforts by the family. Its time more people did this kind of thing. Thanks for the info Hilary.

  16. You know, I haven't seen an anthill since I left Sweden! Thanks for that and for all the great information about this castle and what the owners are doing to preserve and study nature and animals.

  17. Aww, this is an A-Z theme after my own heart. Castles! Love it. :) I paged through some of the previous posts too...and now I want to go traveling again!

  18. And again you entertain with your fascinating post, Hilary.

  19. I like the family is doing with this castle and the land. That's really cool and I bet it's very interesting to agricultural scientists.

    We've mucked up so much of nature's ability to heal itself. This work sounds like an attempt to put things right again.

    Kudos to the Burrells and to you for this fascinating "K" post:~)

  20. That's wonderful that they are doing such good things with the land.

  21. It's always good to hear of humans backing off to give Mother Nature a fighting chance to restore the original beauty and order of things. LOVE the picture of the ruins, too. Yet another place it'd be wonderful to explore.

  22. @ Clarissa - I too was fascinated with their land management - and the decision they made to revert to pre Medieval days

    @ A Lady's life - it's good isn't it .. well all things live together and die together - usually .. just humans have become dominant = not good!

    @ Luanna - yes I totally agree, all land owners .. tiny backyards, courtyards, to gardens, to a few acres, to farm lands - give wildlife wide connecting borders .. let life thrive please.

    @ Jo - thanks and I'm so pleased everyone seems so aware of their efforts and what we should all be doing ..

    @ Inger - oh oh - so pleased I posted and pictured the anthill .. isn't that great - thank you!!!

    @ Nicole - great to meet you .. and thanks for coming over .. and so pleased the posts have entertained you sufficiently that you want to travel - it'll be good to see you!

    @ Glynis - many thanks ... I'm so pleased I'm 'amusing' everyone - yet providing different aspects of Castle life as it is today ..

    @ Sara - they've got a newsletter - that I'll remind everyone about at the end .. in the summaries - perhaps people might like to keep up to date with this amazing place.

    Exactly as you say - we (the dreaded human who is not so clever) is messing around with things - life looks after itself and us, if we so let it.

    It is K for kudos to the Burrells

    @ Mimi - glad you enjoyed the visit ..

    @ Karen - as you say = wonderful!

    @ Susan - it's great to see everyone so interested in the Knepp estate's work .. and as you say giving Mother Nature a chance ..

    .. the ruins, I suspect there's very little there - but a walk up the mound, that'd be just fine - and I'm sure there's a wonderful view over Sussex ..

    Thank you so much everyone - this was recommended to me by one of the residents in the Nursing Centre - who told me about the Castle and the Burrells - that was the pub!!

    I had trouble finding it - but then I can't spell .. K or N??!!

    Cheers to you all - Hilary

  23. Not just the castle, but all the stunning surroundings -- Wow! Yes. Let mother nature do her healing. So important in many ways.

    Another award-winning post, my friend. Cheers from me and Jen!!
    Ann Best, Author of In the Mirror & Other Memoirs

  24. This is an amazing post with stunning surroundings. I enjoyed reading this post.

  25. how does one pronounce it? (do you drop the K?)

  26. Such a fascinating set of transformations over the life of this castle, and the wildland project has to be the best transformation of all.

  27. Good for the Burrell family. And what a beautiful home they have!

  28. @ Ann - as always an astute comment - let mother nature do her healing .. I will be interested to visit ..

    @ Gina - many thanks glad to know you enjoyed the visit ..

    @ BayGirl - Yes (I hope) like knife .. dropping the K .. actually that is the way Shelagh and her nephew pronounce it when they mention it ..

    @ Susan - so much goes on as the decades roll into centuries, and they pass as history turns with the whims of humans. I totally agree the wildland project is a brilliant idea ..

    @ Amy - I'm not sure if the home is open to the public .. I suspect not - but they are certainly contributing back for future generations ...

    Thanks everyone for calling in - see you all soon .. cheers Hilary

  29. I had no idea there were so many beautiful castles - this one devoted to stewardship of wildlife.

  30. Hi Lynn .. there are so many .. but I've tried to show different sorts - and what's happening to them now ..

    I particularly like the idea that the Burrell family have here - the stewardship of ancient lands ..

    Thanks for coming by and commenting - cheers Hilary

  31. Hi Hilary! Another awesome post. I really like learning about all these different castles for the A to Z Challenge.


  32. I loved reading about the Wildland Project. Kudos to this family for trying something so innovative. And how interesting that the ponies are direct descendants of prehistoric horses. Loved all the pictures.

  33. @ Susanne - many thanks ..delighted you're enjoying all the posts ..

    @ Julie - the Wildland Project does seem to be an excellent idea - we're all warming to it! The animals I loved adding in .. another element to castles .. and I've an article on Horses I want to write sometime soon!

    Cheers to you both - Susanne and Julie - thanks for visiting .. Hilary

  34. The Exmoor pony is beautiful, Hilary. Oh how I'd love to see him in person. :-)

  35. Hi Robin .. thought you might like Exmoor pony! let alone the other creatures .. I think this would be a wonderful estate to visit ..

    Cheers Hilary

  36. I love turning the land back to the animals.

  37. @ Ruth .. many thanks .. yes I was so interested to read about their plans for the estate .. good to see you - cheers Hilary