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A Wildlife Wonderland to Inspire You This National Walking Month

A montage of wildlife (including Tamworth pigs, longhorn cattle, Exmoor ponies, fallow deer, red deer and white storks) you might see at Knepp Wildland this National Walking Month

What’s National Walking Month got to do with copywriting? Chichester Copywriter’s Katy reveals all in this ode/guide to one of her favourite West Sussex wildlife walk destinations…

I’m not sure about you, but I need to get outside at least once a week to benefit my body, mind and soul. When everything’s in balance my work is better. And walking itself – especially in nature at somewhere like Knepp Wildland – makes me feel more alive, provides perspective about a great many things, and inspires my creativity. After all:

“All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking”Friedrich Nietzsche.

As someone who sits at a desk day in, day out, walking has always been on my agenda but not so much as the last two years. It wasn’t that I felt the need to take a mandated daily walk but, when the world went wonky, I realised I needed to touch base with nature more

I’ve always loved fauna, liked trying to ID flora and enjoyed a cracking view but lockdown – and my need to be nurtured by nature – led to the launch of my Instagram Nature Journal. And, since May 2020, I’ve recorded weekly wildlife walks with photo and video captures alongside words – sometimes creative writing and sometimes commentary. From the UK’s first wild white stork chicks and extraordinary birdsong to cows starved of human visitors and wonderful wildflowers, there’s been plenty to encourage me to take a walk on the wild side.

So, May is Living Streets’ National Walking Month, which is designed to encourage people to #Try20 (walk for 20 minutes each day during May). And, as the charity says:

“Walking is an easy and accessible way to improve physical and mental health and a 20-minute walk can reduce the risk of a number of preventable health conditions, including certain cancers, depression, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes”.

However, as a I suffer with ME (and exercise can cause post-exertional malaise (PEM) that takes a while to recover from), I tend to take a slightly longer weekly walk followed by a day of complete rest. But everyone is different so your walking activities should be led by knowing and listening to your body.

With this in mind, I want to share my experiences of walking among wildlife at one of my favourite locations. I’ve included some tips on how you can make the most of your walk, maximise your chance of spotting flora and fauna, and advice on how to maintain this natural treasure trove for all to enjoy.

Knepp Wildland – a wildlife loving walker’s paradise 

Inspired to visit this West Sussex wonderland by a feature on BBC’s Springwatch in 2020, I’ve walked at Knepp Wildland no less than 10 times over the last two years.

Initially excited to see the first wild white storks to hatch in the UK for 600 years (I know, right?!), I then discovered so much more at one of the largest rewilding projects in lowland Britain. From the off – with a fly-over from a calling cuckoo, a swimming red deer, the purrs of turtle doves and piglets hiding in the bracken – I was hooked.

As well as having a jolly good walk around land that’s taken an ecologically beneficial step back in time, the challenge is to spot Knepp’s free-roaming Big Five – Tamworth pigs, longhorn cattle, Exmoor ponies, fallow deer and red deer. Yes, I’ve seen them all but it took a few visits. I’ve also had some special seasonal experiences such as seeing a purple emperor butterfly and hearing a nightingale sing (both night and day).

You will of course see more on your walk if you’re quiet and look around you (including up in the sky). And it’s well worth visiting at least one of the tree platforms, where you’ll be elevated and camouflaged as you become part of the canopy. This not only brings a tremendous sense of “be more tree” calm but might help you experience more wildlife encounters. I’ve seen some shy mammals – including a scampering badger and a dashing fox – from up in the treetops. 

My first few first walks were in May/June in glorious weather and the land was dry. But, be warned, because the land is uneven in places it isn’t a saunter in sandals type destination. There are also few places to shelter from the rain or sunshine when out in the scrubland so make sure you pack with the good old British weather in mind.

There are several walking routes to choose from (each identifiable by coloured markers), which are all circular so you can walk as far as you like. Although Knepp’s been featured on TV a few times, it never feels crowded as the wildlands are so large (3,500-acres). You can go for miles without seeing another soul. When I took my mum on mothers’ day this year, we saw fewer than five people in three hours, it felt like we had the place to ourselves!

But we did see two storks snuggling and bill-clacking on their nest (there were 37 eggs across nine nests at the time of publishing) and another leggy white lovely foraging in a stream. There were also tens of free-roaming cattle lapping up the sunshine as well as a pair in a horn-locked tussle. Meanwhile, red kites sky-danced (a courtship display) and Dartmoor ponies tried to bite each other’s backs. That’s spring at Knepp Wildlands, folks!

Top tips for a top walk at Knepp

  • Make your own way and donate – There are a variety of footpaths across the rewilded site ready to explore.  So grab a map (from the car park or download online) and choose your trail. These are public and permissive footpaths and are always open but some routes are redirected when there are access issues (mud – see below – and rare nesting wildlife). Remember to give a donation for using the car park (or buy some rewilded goodies from the shop) to show your appreciation to the charity for the trail it’s blazing and opportunities it’s providing.
  • Stick to the path or take a safari – You need to stick to the marked footpaths to respect the wildlife and rewilding project but if you take a paid safari you often get to visit some areas that are usually out of bounds. These tend to be quieter and lead to more sightings (if your group’s not too chatty)! I’ve done an autumn safari (during the deer rut) twice as well as a tracking walk and an owl safari.
  • Plan around the weather and seasons – This is a largely unmanaged wildland with muddy/uneven areas rootled by pigs so be careful if visiting in the winter or after a lot of rain as some areas become waterlogged. You’ll need your wellies and good physical fitness to tackle a wet Knepp – I learnt this lesson with a lot of strained muscles when visiting in December 2020!

I hope this has given you some courage and motivation to explore somewhere wild and wonderful this National Walking Month and beyond. Do tag me in if you share your own photos of Knepp (or any other wildlife walks) via Instagram, Facebook or Twitter and let me know your favourite wildlife walking destinations.

Take a walk on the wild side with your business copy

If you’d like to see how my weekly nature nurtures inspire my copywriting, and find out how I can help you with your digital marketing and more, contact me online or give me a call on 01243 533421 or 07986 802194.

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