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Knepp: Rewilding your child

Knepp, the famous rewilded estate, is holding children's outdoors adventure sessions. One of my daughters and I joined in…

5 min read
A girl wearing a camouflage hat being handed an elderflower by a Forest School trainer.
Ryan handing my daughter an elderflower.

OK, I confess it. I was feeling guilty. Eldest child had Guides camp and a cookery day booked for half-term. My youngest? Nothing. Zip. Zilch. And then I saw Knepp, the famous rewilded estate I've always wanted to visit, was doing “rewild your child” sessions.

That was… a surprise. One of the reasons we've never visited Knepp, despite its proximity to us, is that it's never come across as very child-friendly. There campsite doesn't accepts anyone under 12. We're still three years away from being able to go camping there as a family. The safaris are the same - because children are too noisy (apparently). But here we were with a child-friendly event.

The timings worked. Booked.

Wildings day

We rolled into the (busy) car park, to find most of the pre-rewilding children and their parents already waiting. One quick change into our wellies later, we were ready, and the group drifted towards the woods, looking for things that colour matched to some pre-painted egg boxes, as an exploration of natural camouflage.

Most of the session was spent in a small camp area in the woods. The wild mood was slightly spoiled at first by the sound of nearby traffic, but that soon faded away as the children started stripping elderflowers to make elderflower cordial. The setting was familiar, in a comforting way: a firepit, surrounded by logs to act as seats. A tarp, suspended from large branches, gave us a modicum of cover doing the occasional showers.

Then, usefully on an unusually chilly May day, we had a lesson in fire starting. That fire pit was going to see action. This was something of a refresher for my youngest. Pre-pandemic we'd spent plenty of time together at the Sussex Wildlife Trust's Nature Tots at Woods Mill. As it turned out, our leader for Wildings Ryan Greaves knew Katie who ran our Nature Tots sessions. It seems that the Sussex forest school network is a small, tight one…

My daughter was quite familiar with the fire-lighting steels, both from then and from our bushcraft session on Brownsea Island. Soon, a pleasant blaze was going, and it was time for the activities.

Children being briefing on rewilding activities at Knepp Estate.
Ryan briefing the children on the activities they could do…

Dissecting a Barn Owl pellet

Ryan briefed us on the choices, which ranged from den/nest building for soft toys, dam building in the small river (which my daughter had planned to do initially), woodcraft — and owl pellet dissection. To my surprise, delight, and pride, my youngest immediately stuck up her hand for that, the only one of the children to do so. She got stuck in as soon as she could:

She was absolutely lost in the moment while both breaking apart the barn owl pellet (sourced from the ground under the estate's nest boxes), and in identifying the vole and mouse bones that came out. Her intense fascination attracted the attention of some other children, who joined in after boring of their first choice of activity. The delight in their voices as they identified each little snippet of bone that emerged was palpable. The day was worth it for just that experience.


Once my daughter was done, leaving me to stick the remains to a sheet of cardboard, she headed over to the woodcraft area — another familiar experience from Nature Tots. She'd made wooden badges before, so this time she aimed for a wooden toy spinner, which involved sawing off a much thinner disk, and drilling two holes in it to thread some string through. It was a time consuming task for her still fairly small hands, and snack time was approaching.

You can guess what happened next, can't you?

Inevitably, I and several of the other parents were left finishing our little darlings' creations as they decamped to the fire for toasted crumpets, and the elderflower cordial they'd been making. My daughter was tentative at first with the unfamiliar drinking, but ended up pretty much downing it, once she'd tasted it properly. And then she sent two crumpets after it as a chaser.

And then, we were done. We helped break down the home base, piling all the logs off to one side, as the staff packed away the rest of the gear. And we set off for the car (via a quick visit to the shop) and home.

The verdict

So, my daughter's verdict?


We'll be back for more, if we can, come the summer.

A nine-year old girl in outdoors clothes, clutching sticks in a forest school setting
A happy rewilded child…
Knepp runs rewilding events during school holidays. Keep a watch out on their events page for details.
reviewsrewildinggrowing up wild

Adam Twitter

A middle-aged Dad, coping with a mid-life crisis, but enjoying life with his two wonderful daughters.


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