Deer diary: The Attingham herd
Attingham’s Deer Park was created in 1798 as part of Thomas, 2nd Lord Berwick’s grand improvements to the Mansion and grounds. Today, around 200 fallow deer, descended from the original deer herd live in the park.
Deer Diary: Autumn in the Deer Park
From September onwards the deer begin to feed on the acorns and conkers that fall to the ground from the trees in the park – they’re a great source of food for building the herd up for the rut and the coming winter. At this time of year look out for the bucks rearing up on their hind legs to knock the branches with their antlers to knock down more.
From October onwards the breeding season, known as the rut, begins. During this time you may see the bucks testing their strength against each other by pushing and shoving each other with their antlers locked. It is rare for this to result in serious injury in the herd, but minor injuries do occur.
This is an important and stressful time of year for the deer herd, and we share this information with our visitors on site over the next month, to explain what is happening and emphasise the importance of sticking to the paths in the park and not approaching the deer while the rut takes place.
Of all the bucks on the park it will be just one or two that father the vast majority of the fawns born the following June.
From the middle of November Attingham’s Rangers start to feed the deer their daily winter rations to help them through the winter. We start feeding the deer at this time of year to get them used to being fed before winter really gets underway and to help the bucks recover from the rut. Although, initially the bucks will hang back from the feeding, they are still resting after the autumn rut, after the first few weeks they will start to join the herd.
The deer are fed whole fodder beet and deer nuts.
A wild herd
Deer are wild animals, and the Attingham herd is no exception. The Ranger team monitor the herd from a distance on a regular basis as they are unable to approach them too closely. This careful monitoring gives the team a good understanding the of the deer’s behaviour, and means they can identify how the herd is feeling, whether they’re hungry, calm or may have been spooked by a stressful event.
A love of deer
The deer have always had a special place at the heart of Attingham. Thomas, 8th Lord Berwick was particularly fond of the deer and fed them daily in the winter, with special favourites eating out of his hand. Thomas lived at Attingham from the early 1920s until his death in 1947. Following his wishes, his ashes and those of his wife Teresa (who lived at Attingham until her death in 1972) were placed at the memorial in the Deer Park, in a glade with views of the estate.
Following on from Thomas, the deer herd are today carefully managed by Attingham's Outdoor Team.