Sir Charlie Raymond Burrell
Knepp Castle Estate, West Sussex
Sir Charlie Raymond Burrell, 10th Baronet (born 27 August 1962) studied Higher National Diploma in Agriculture and Advanced Farm Management at Cirencester Royal Agricultural College. He inherited Knepp Castle Estate in West Sussex from his grandparents in 1983 in his early twenties. Despite intensifying the Estate’s arable and dairy business for 17 years, farming on the heavy Sussex clay remained unprofitable. His damascene conversion to rewilding began after meeting the visionary Dutch ecologist Frans Vera.
All 3,200 acres of the Knepp Estate are now devoted to a process-led rewilding project involving free-roaming herds of cattle, horses, pigs and deer as drivers of habitat creation. Since 2001, when it began, numerous Red Data species have colonised Knepp and populations of common species are rocketing. Knepp Wildland is now a breeding hotspot for nightingales and turtle doves, (the most likely species to go extinct in the UK by 2020) and has the largest breeding colony of purple emperor butterflies in the UK. The grazing animals provide 35 tons of organic, pasture-fed meat per annum - a lucrative, low-carbon source of income for the Estate – and wildlife tourism, including African-style safaris, is another key part of the business.
Knepp Wildland’s Advisory Board comprises 22 eminent ecologists and conservationists, including John Lawton and Frans Vera.The success of this open-ended, low-cost, landscape-scale restoration project, where natural processes are allowed to perform, is now influencing thinking across the conservation world.
In 2015, Knepp Wildland received a People Environment Achievement (PEA) award for Nature and, in 2017, the Anders Wall award for special contribution to the rural environment within the European Union.