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Deer at Ashridge Estate

Fallow deer in the parkland at Attingham Park, Shropshire
Deer on the Ashridge Estate | © National Trust Images/James Dobson

The fallow deer are an integral part of the landscape at Ashridge and a much-loved feature of this historic estate. Find out about their history here and how they are managed.

Medieval origins

In 1283, Edmund Earl of Cornwall (grandson of King John of Robin Hood fame) founded a monastery on the site where Ashridge House now stands. It was named ‘Assherugge’.

As was the custom amongst the elite in medieval times, a deer park was created, surrounding the monastery. Fallow deer were brought in, kept within this fenced enclosure, and hunted for venison. This is the origin of the fallow deer that live at Ashridge today.

Following the dissolution of the monasteries, the estate passed into the hands of the Earls of Bridgewater. The park was expanded, but the deer were always kept within the fenced parkland and managed by the park keepers.

The Great Sale – the deer set free

In 1925, the owners of the Ashridge Estate decided to sell up. By this time the estate comprised of not only the park, but large areas of woodland and commons surrounding it. The estate was broken up and Ashridge House was sold, but the magnificent landscape that surrounded it passed to the Trust to look after.

At the time of the sale, the fences enclosing the park were removed. The deer that had lived behind fences for 600 years were set free to roam across the countryside. They now travel widely in the landscape, crossing land owned by many landowners, and are truly wild animals.

A herd of fallow deer underneath a tree at Ashridge Estate, Hertfordshire
A herd of fallow deer underneath a tree at Ashridge Estate | © National Trust Images/Hugh Mothersole

Deer management

The deer at Ashridge are an integral part of this landscape and a much-loved feature of this historic estate. However, the deer population has grown rapidly in recent years and causes significant impact to the woodland, damaging habitats for other wildlife that make the estate their home.

The woodland is recognised as being of international importance and protected as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and Special Area of Conservation. This means we are required by law to care for the environment in a way that allows this wide variety of flora and fauna to flourish.

As part of our work to protect the estate it is necessary to manage the deer population. We work with independent organisations and a panel of wildlife conservation experts from the National Trust to agree a deer management plan.

Download the deer management information pack to find out more about the deer at Ashridge and our work in this landscape.

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