knepp safaris sussex

Escape from Brighton? Yes, it’s true. Sometimes even the truest Brightonian needs a little break from the romance of this concrete jungle by the sea, in exchange for some country air. For the Ellie & Co team, this would usually involve a stay in room above an old pub in a Sussex village, the type you’d see on a postcard, with plenty of places nearby for a brisk walk. This time, we fancied a different type of escapism, one that would transport us to another country…  without actually leaving Sussex or England.

knepp wildland camp kitchen

But what to do when the savannahs of Africa are too far but the South Downs are a little too close? Well, take out your map of Sussex and find Knepp Wildland, what I like to call the Africa of Sussex.

Side point: What I’d love to be able to write now is that we did this on a whim. Finished up work on Friday, visualised the perfect scene, booked a trip and off we went.  Not so! This unique place, pretty close to London and with limited accommodation, so I had to book seven months ago to get a spot.

Less than an hour after leaving Brighton, we reach our destination. As we follow the sign for ‘Knepp Wildland Safaris’, and roll slowly up the drive, I feel transported, my eyes frantically searching around for a sighting of wildlife, I almost convince myself I am actually in Africa and that lions are about to appear…

We make our way to our accommodation, an adventure in itself, along little paths, past a sweeping open meadow, a camp kitchen, shepherd’s huts and yurts.

knepp safaris shepherd's huts

Into the forest we go, where after a few moments of anticipation, we see our home for three whole blissful nights, a giant bell tent – complete with a king-size bed, a sofa and a chimney! We also have a firepit outside for cosy nights, and table and chairs perfect for red wine drinking…

glamping at knepp wildland in sussex

glamping at knepp wildland projectI look up at the canopy of old oak trees and can’t believe my eyes when I hear an owl hoot. An actual owl. I feel like we’ve arrived! We’re definitely not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy…

old oak trees knepp wildland

The Knepp Wilding project is set on 3,500 acres of an English country manor estate that resembles the wild and dynamic African bushland than a traditional English country garden. Until 2001, most of it was used for traditional farming, but has since been left to nature, and various rare species of wildlife introduced. Encounters with herds of wild ponies, cattle, deer and pigs as they roam are almost always guaranteed, not to mention sightings of once-rare birds, mammals, butterflies, beetles, reptiles, plants and lots of mushrooms.

Important side point: Just so you know, I did not take the photo below! It’s from the accommodation’s gallery…

For most of the time, it also feels like you have the place all to yourself. Having said that, I’d recommend getting an early start on your wildlife spotting adventure – anywhere this unique with sun and countryside air isn’t going to stay as empty as this all day. As we found out, a good way to discover it on your own is on a dawn walk…

It was totally worth dragging myself out of my cosy warm bed into the cold just to see the project bathed in morning mist…

dawn safari at knepp wildland

Look, a deer! Can you see it on the path? We did see a lot more but I didn’t have my camera out in time we spotted them. Plus they are incredible at camouflaging themselves.

knepp wildland fallow deer

And some piglets – I will never make it as a nature photographer… but you get the idea!

wild pigs knepp safaris

Other things we did during the weekend: picking sloe berries which we found in abundance, to make into fancy gin at some point…

sloe berries knepp wildland sussex

Walking to a country pub for a nice Sunday lunch and glass of red wine…

the countryman inn sussex

the countryman inn shipley sussex

the countryman inn shipley sussex…and drinking red wine back at camp immersed in the sounds of the forest. Cheers to the perfect cosy weekend in the African bush of Sussex!

knepp safaris glamping

Have a little snoop inside our tent, here.

 

Book your stay at the Africa of Sussex here, and read more about the project here.

Knepp is just one of the treasures featured in my upcoming  guidebook, Secret Sussex, coming soon. Stay tuned!

 

 

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