This time last week I was packing a bag ready to set off for a night at Knepp Wildland Safaris with Canopy & Stars. You may remember that as part of the CS Collective (Canopy & Stars bloggers’ collective), I got to explore Harptree Court and stayed in the most idyllic fisherman’s hut in Normandy last year. I’m thrilled to be working with them again this year, and they organised a perfect meet-up at Knepp. Lots of my favourite bloggers were there – Lou, Lori, Hannah Sarah-Lou, Laura, Kat, Sara – along with some new faces that it was great to meet – Chris, Daniel, Ruth, Rachel and Rachael. After welcome drinks, we were given a tour of the campsite – there’s a selection of glamping options, including yurts, bell tents, shepherd’s hut and a gigantic tipi. My home for the night was the very splendid Purple Emperor Yurt (so named after the butterflies that are thriving in the environment at Knepp).
Knepp itself has such an interesting story behind it – a huge area of land that was previously intensively farmed but has now been turned over to nature by landowner Charles Burrell as part of an one of the largest ‘rewilding’ projects in lowland Europe. Resident ecologist Penny Green gave us a fascinating presentation about the project and the wildlife that it supports, including longhorn cattle, fallow, roe and red deer, Exmoor ponies and Tamworth pigs that have been introduced to try to imitate the mix of herbivores that would have grazed the land thousands of years ago. Turtle doves, nightingales and Purple Emperor butterflies are some of the other species that are making a comeback at Knepp.
After Penny’s presentation we climbed aboard two open-sided Pinzgauer trucks and off we went on safari! We spotted longhorn cattle, deer and tracked down a family of Tamworth pigs with their piglets. At various points we could stop and climb up to tree platforms to take in views out over the wildland. Our guides produced flasks of tea and coffee and amazingly rich chocolate brownies at one point, which went down rather well, as you can imagine.
Back at the campsite, we were treated to a beer tasting session with Wild Beer Co in the cowshed. I’m not a huge fan of beer but the tasting session was actually really interesting, and I gamely tried them all. If I had to choose a favourite it would be the Ninkasi – with apple juice, wild yeasts, NZ hops and champagne fermentation. Pretty sure it was the mention of champagne that sold it to me, to be honest.
At this point I must mention Canopy & Stars’ Year of Wild, and the badgest that you can collect, because I may have become slightly competitive about collecting them that evening. There are 12 embroidered Scout-style badges to collect when you share a photo of yourself in the wild at a Canopy & Stars space. On our trip away I bagged myself the Keepin’ It Green (for going on safari), Bare Grills (for enjoying the delicious al fresco BBQ and breakfast), Inspired By Nature (I made a sun print), Toast To The Wild (beer tasting), and I reckon I deserve a Jump In Feet First for the outdoor shower I took in the morning (it was incredible, by the way). So I have seven more to collect when I’m on my next C&S adventure, and you can be very sure I won’t rest until I have the full collection.
After a wonderful evening together in the cowshed, I made my way back to my yurt for the night. Furnished with upcycled and vintage furniture, it was right up my street, and the bed was so comfy and cosy. We even had nightcaps provided (the ones that actually go on your head, not the ones you drink). Unfortunately it was a cloudy night so I couldn’t see the stars through the yurt’s roof ring (no Wild Stars badge for me this time), but I slept well. I’m afraid I didn’t set my alarm for 2am when Penny had told us we might hear the nightingales sing, which I do slightly regret. Next time.
After lying in bed for a while in the morning listening to the orchestra of birdsong, I used the hot water outdoor shower in the ‘pitch your own’ campsite in the wildflower meadow and it was all kinds of awesome. Plentiful coffee and a cooked breakfast eaten around the campfire made it a pretty perfect start to the day.
Thankyou to Knepp and to Canopy & Stars for a magical time. I can’t wait to plan my next adventure.