Since 2012 Knepp has hosted the Shipley Bowmen – an extremely popular archery club open to all ages from 8 years upwards. An area of the park between Spring Wood and West Drive is kept mown for this purpose. The club meets at Knepp on Sunday and Wednesday evenings from Easter to September, or through October if the weather remains good.
Clay pigeon shoot
For 46 years Knepp Estate has hosted the Countryman Gun Club of West Grinstead, a local clay pigeon shoot of around 100 members. The club hosts two open shoots each year, six skeet and 12 sporting mornings plus one have-a-go shoot to complete the season.
Knepp Mill Pond
Knepp Mill Pond was, until the Ardingly Reservoir was built, the largest open stretch of water south of the Thames. In the Second World War the 25-acre lake was drained to prevent German bombers using it for navigation.
Until the 1980s the lake used to freeze in winter providing a picturesque skating rink and welcoming locals from miles around for games of ice hockey. In the past decade or so, however, our winters have not been cold enough for the lake to freeze solid.
In summer, Knepp Mill Pond has been the venue for the swimming stage of triathlons, and Dragon Boat and DIY raft races, often in aid of charity. The lake is now too shallow to allow these activities but a monumental project to dredge the lake (which is also a site of county importance for its wildlife), is set to be carried out in 2018. It is hoped that, with deep water once again, we can resume some of these hugely entertaining activities, while securing this vital wildlife habitat for decades to come.
After many years of running our own polo club, in 2013 Aspect Polo run by Sarah Wiseman took over the polo grounds and infrastructure and now operates a highly successful club based on the Lake Ground at Floodgates Farm, overlooking the lake and Knepp Castle.
The Estate owes the retention of hedges and much of its woodland and copses to a tradition of fox-hunting. Charlie Burrell's grandparents, the late Sir Walter and Lady Burrell, were Masters of the Crawley and Horsham Hunt. Throughout the farming revolution, when 75,000 miles of hedges were being pulled up, they refused to grub theirs out. The average farm field size on Knepp remained a little under 10 acres (tiny by modern standards), all bordered by hedges to provide challenging jumps for the Hunt. This certainly benefited wildlife at the time and has contributed to the success of our rewilding project by providing a refuge for birds, flora and invertebrates which can then colonise the wider landscape.
Since the 2004 Hunting Act, which banned the pursuit of foxes with hounds, the Crawley and Horsham Hunt has, like other hunts, adopted Trail Hunting instead. We are delighted to continue to support the Hunt in this way and to hold the Opening Meet at Knepp, continuing a tradition which brings the local community of all ages together for a challenging day of riding in open countryside.
Similar to Drag-hunting, Trail-hunting involves the laying of a scent across the country which a pack of hounds then searches for and follows using their noses. While Drag-hunting is regarded as mainly an equestrian activity where the drag line is laid over a pre-determined – and generally known – route for the hounds to follow, often incorporating a number of fences for the riders to negotiate, Trail-hunting is more of a hound-based activity where much of the emphasis is on watching the hounds work out where the scent has been laid in a way to simulate traditional hunting.
This is of great interest to people riding but also for those following on foot or watching from a car. With both Trail-hunting and Drag-hunting, those mounted on horseback follow a “field master” whose role it is to keep everyone in touch with hounds without interfering with them. For more information on this sporting activity see the Countryside Alliance website.
The Trail-hunting season starts in the autumn and continues throughout the winter, finishing in March.
The Knepp Estate would like to make categorically clear that it never has, and never would, allow illegal fox hunting to take place on its land.