Creating a campisite that is filled with wildlife requires a lot of help from nature.
To enable more delicate plants to flourish, along with the animals they encourage, we need to graze the camping meadow through the winter. This grazing stops more invasive species such as nettles, grass and docks from dominating.
Wild little sheep
To achieve a habitat that is ideal for a range of plants we use a small flock of wild sheep borrowed from a friend Owena. Owena’s Shetland sheep leave their farm, near Lewes, in November. They get to spend the winter at the Secret Campsite, for free.
In exchange we get some expert pasture management and a habitat filled with wildlife.
What a great swap
Hard grazing the meadow
Hard grazing the camping areas, removes most of the tougher vegetation. This gives the smaller plants the opportunity to get established in the spring.
But, there is an amusing hazard.
Bramble leaves are delicious, and also great for wildlife. In their quest to eat these leaves the sheep often get tangled up in the brambles. Each morning when I walk over to the camping meadow to check them, 1 or 2 of the little sheep need freeing from the clutches of the brambles. It’s the downside to using small sheep. They’re to puny to free themselves.
But it makes for a very amusing site. The meadow is filled with little brown, black and cream sheep, walking around disguised as hairbrushes.
It's definitely worthwhile
I’m not sure that the wildlife we share the campsite with appreciates the inconvenience to the sheep. But, it helps for moments in the summer when campers get to see a glow worm, a lizard or a marbled white.
Marbled White in the camping meadow photo Colin Gibbs
Having such a diverse grassland space is great for all sorts of wildlife. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see one of the bats from Knowlands Wood hunting moths over the flower filled camping meadow, as the sun sets.