I’ve always lived in West Sussex, so my roots are most definitely here. I could never see myself moving away as I just love the nature reserves, wildlife and wild places this county has to offer. There’s a rich diversity of habitats and wildlife that make this such a special place for me. I enjoy getting away from people and traffic so you’ll either find me in The Mens Sussex Wildlife Trust reserve near Billingshurst, at the Knepp Castle Estate or in my own little wild meadow at home.
For visitors looking for culture I’d recommend Petworth House and Arundel Castle. But one of the best kept secrets in West Sussex has to be the Knepp Safaris at Knepp Castle Estate. Just off the A272 near Shipley, the estate sprawls over 3,500 acres and is a nature lovers dream. It is one of the largest rewilding projects in lowland Europe and if you’re travelling by train, get off at Billingshurst Station and take a 10-minute cab ride to the estate. For those who can bear to crawl out of bed at the ungodly hour of 5am, the reward is a riot of birdsong and sightings of even the shyest animals out in the open – like roe deer, red deer, stoats, weasels, foxes and badgers. Early mornings can bring the greatest rewards with magical light and Exmoor ponies, Longhorn cattle and fallow deer wandering through the mist.
I’d urge everyone to try a Dawn Safari. It’s taken on foot, at a gentle pace, so is suitable for people of all abilities, with frequent stops for bird- and wildlife-spotting. If you can, climb up to one of the tree-platforms where you can experience the dawn from high in the tree canopy, and a feeding station with a chance to see ravens, buzzards and red kites. The bacon roll (made with estate bacon) and cup of tea at the end tastes so good. If you can’t tear yourself away and want to stay for the night, there are yurts, tipis and shepherd’s huts on the estate. If getting up early isn’t your thing, there is a whole range of African-style guided wildlife safaris to suit
While you’re in West Sussex you should enjoy some of the fantastic independent businesses in the area. Cocoa Loco in Horsham is a divine organic chocolatier, as is Just Brownies, that produces the most delicious chocolate brownies ever. They have a stall at the Farmer’s Market in Horsham, which takes place every Thursday and Saturday. Charlie’s Farm Shop in Bury is definitely worth a visit, as is Green People, an online shop based in West Grinstead selling organic and vegan natural beauty products. If you’d rather opt for a pub lunch, the Three Crowns in Wisborough Green is one of my favourites – great food, beautiful garden complete with hens and a lovely selection of gins!
To find out more about Knepp Safaris, visit www.kneppsafaris.co.uk