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Wild deer herd at Knole

Deer roaming the parkland on a frosty morning at Knole, Kent
Deer roaming the parkland on a frosty morning at Knole | © National Trust Images/Jo Hatcher

It’s hard to miss the fallow deer in Knole’s parkland. They are owned and managed by the Sackville family's Knole Estate. Whilst the National Trust doesn’t manage the herd, or the entirety of the park, it’s important to us that everyone has the best experience possible, so here are some dos and don’ts.

Deer dos and don’ts

Unfortunately, many visitors to Knole are tempted to feed, touch or even pick up these wild animals. We know they look cute, but we can’t state strongly enough that it's essential to resist the temptation. The herd should be treated like any other grazing livestock, such as cattle, and viewed from a distance. And please don't try to feed them anything.

Please don't feed the deer

Deer will eat whatever food they are offered by park visitors (including fruit and vegetables). This is not part of their natural diet and will be harmful to them. They will associate humans with food and pester visitors. The deer are wild and powerful animals. They become aggressive when pestering for food.

The natural plant life at Knole provides more than enough nutrients for the deer, and as well as grazing on acorns, conkers and sweet chestnuts during winter months, their natural diet is supplemented.

Take litter home

It is equally important to pick up your litter so that the deer do not chew or ingest it, which may fatally harm them. An increase in visitors and picnics has led to a rise in litter being left around the park. Please take your litter home for disposal.

Deer wander through Knole Park outside the West Front entrance of Knole, Sevenoaks, Kent
Deer wander outside the West Front entrance of Knole | © National Trust Images/Rupert Truman

What to do if a deer approaches you

Sometimes it’s hard to avoid contact as many of the deer will happily approach people in the hope of food, but this is chiefly as a result of becoming used to humans getting too close to them. If a deer does approach you, ignore it and move away from the area. So, to all you deer lovers out there, please, please do not feed these beautiful creatures.

Safety advice for dog walkers

Please keep your dog on a lead at all times whilst in the park. Just like a herd of cows, the deer in the park are wild, unpredictable animals that roam freely and can feel threatened by dogs. Unfortunately, the deer have been fatally attacked by dogs off lead in the park.

Tick bites and Lyme disease

All woodlands and parks can attract ticks. Lyme disease is a bacterial infection spread to humans by infected ticks, which feed on the blood of birds and mammals, including humans. If you touch or feed the deer you could increase your chances of being bitten by a tick.

To familiarise yourself with symptoms and things you can do to prevent tick bites, visit the NHS website

About the deer

Did you know there have been deer at Knole for over 500 years? Knole’s medieval deer park is the last of its kind in Kent. The park was created in 1456 when Archbishop Bourchier first enclosed the area with a fence to make a park for deer hunting. Fallow deer have freely roamed the parkland ever since.

If you want to learn about the herd, come along to a deer keeping session or guided walk that take place regularly throughout the year. There are plenty of opportunities to get involved and ask questions. Please visit the ‘what’s on’ section on our home page for full details.

Deer with antlers in velvet at Attingham Park, Shropshire
Buck with antlers | © National Trust/ Sarah Cunningham

The deer in early spring

Wondering where all the deer’s antlers are? Every year in the spring the bucks cast their antlers, ready to grow a new set in time for the rutting season in the autumn. You may see deer that look like they have wounds on their heads - this just means they have recently cast their antlers. It’s nothing to worry about, and is all part of the yearly cycle of the deer. The older bucks tend to cast earliest, meaning they will also be the first in the herd to start growing their new antlers.

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