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Exploring the estate at Charlecote Park

A young fawn looking at the camera in West Park Lime Avenue with autumn leaves all around.
Explore the estate and spot the four types of fallow deer. | © Jana Eastwood

Charlecote’s tranquil parkland is the perfect place to picnic, play or wander all year round. Clear your mind with a gentle stroll through the wildlife-rich meadow and tree-lined avenues.

Autumn at Charlecote

Autumn colours creep in from late September right through until late November with the trees across the parkland taking on a rainbow of firey colours. The avenue of lime trees in West Park is a particular highlight in early October and they shed their golden leaves like confetti in a gentle breeze.

Arrive early for the 9am opening or stay until 5pm close to make the most of the golden light that bathes the parkland in the mornings and afternoons.

It's a great time to be outdoors - enjoy a misty morning or a blustery afternoon and colourful autumn scenery all around the parkland.

Deer rut

Cold weather in the autumn triggers the annual deer rut - you'll often be able to hear the bucks bellowing around the parkland at this time of year, followed by a clash of antlers as they challenge each other.

There has been a fallow deer herd at Charlecote for centuries, and legend has it that a young William Shakespeare was prosecuted for poaching here. We manage our herd to the highest possible welfare standards.

Please, never approach the deer. They are wild animals and can be dangerously unpredictable especially during the rutting season.

Fantastic fungi

Look carefully around the parkland in the autumn, there are many different examples of fungus in the grass and growing on the trees. Their forms change quickly as they mature making some of them hard to identify, and they're great for close-up photography. Remember to admire from a distance and take away only photos - much of the wildlife in the parkland benefits from the fungi in the autumn.

House martin migration

During September, the house martins often stop at Chalreocte Park before they migrate to Africa. The different colonies can be seen merging together, as they share nests under the windowsill of the house. Sit on a bench near the paddock to watch this flurry of activity before they head off for the winter.

A large buck walks in front of a large stone archway and gate. Golden autumn leaves litter the ground around it's hooves while autumnal trees frame the archway.
Stick to the pathways and you might just spot the deer rutting during the autumn. | © Jana Eastwood

Charlecote's historic fallow deer herd

Fallow deer have lived at Charlecote for centuries, and legend has it that young William Shakespeare was prosecuted for poaching here. Around 200 deer now roam freely around the parkland, including fawns born in the summer. Take a walk through the wider parkland and you’ll almost certainly see them during your visit.

Tread quietly and keep your distance, stay on the mown pathway and they may stand still long enough for stunning photographs. It’s usually easier to spot them in winter when the trees are bare, but if you can’t spot them, just ask our park and garden team and they’ll point you in the right direction.

Four colours of fallow deer

The historic fallow deer herd comprises all four colours of the species – common, menil (the spots are more distinct than the common), melanistic (very dark), and leucistic – almost white. The white deer are not albinos, it is their natural colouring. Try and spot all varieties on a visit.

We sometimes close West Park to visitors from late spring to give pregnant does more quiet space away from the crowds.

Deer through the year

Over the summer months, the bucks grow back their antlers. The new antlers are covered in a soft velvet coating which supplies blood to the growing bone structures underneath. This coating drops off in late summer and can look a little messy but is completely harmless. Summer is also a great time for spotting fawns darting through the parkland. Don't worry if you spot one on it's own, the mum won't be far away.

Listen for the deep bellowing calls and clash of antlers in the autumn, as the bucks challenge each other for the attention of the does. It's a good idea to remain on the pathways and watch them from a distance and these impressive challenges can travel great distances in a matter of seconds.

Winter brings with it new coats for the deer to keep them warm. The team give them extra food and 'deer nuts' in the winter, to supplement their diet.

In spring the bucks shed their antlers after a drop in testosterone. We place the antlers back out in the parkland for them to nibble on, as they contain vital nutrients to supplement their diet. The does are heavily pregnant in the spring and often seek shelter in the sanctuary.

Centuries of tradition

Have you noticed the traditional cleft oak paling fencing? This is a rural craft that we're delighted to keep alive. The varied heights of the panels confuse the deer so that they don't jump over the fence, although they easily could.

Please don't approach the deer

If you are asked by the team to move, it’s for your safety and the wellbeing of the deer who are very anxious animals. Keep children in your care close to you, and photograph them from a distance. The bucks have large antlers and they can be unpredictable when startled. If you find a fawn in the long grass or nettles, please leave it alone.

Landrover with Jacob sheep on the estate at Charlecote Park, Warwickshire
Jacob sheep on the estate at Charlecote Park | © National Trust Images/John Millar

Charlecote's flock of Jacob sheep

The fallow deer share the parkland with a pedigree flock of Jacob sheep, famous for their piebald colouring and distinctive multi horns. They are considered a primitive breed having made very few adaptations throughout the ages.

Their connection with Charlecote Park dates back to 1756, when they were introduced by 'Bachelor' George Lucy from his travels throughout Europe.

Award-winning sheep

We work with the Jacob Sheep Society and our 92 breeding ewes have been joined by award-winning pedigree rams from the Society. We've reinstated the pedigree status of the flock, with each of our breeding ewes now having her own certificate.

Tupping happens in November – when our prize rams are put in with the ewes. Daylight length determines when the ewes come into season and we plan ahead for lambing in April the following year.

Wildlife highlights at Charlecote

Whatever the weather or time of year, Charlecote is perfect for spotting wildlife. You’re bound to see something interesting when you visit.

A heron swoops in to land at the top of the trees in the heronry, its legs and arms extended with feathers on top of it's head caught in the wind, against a bright blue, wintry sky.
Look out for herons by the river | © National Trust/Jana Eastwood


Bring your binoculars to spot an array of birdlife in the parkland throughout the year. Watch for woodpeckers and jays in the trees, white egrets by the lake, or even a kingfisher skimming the river. Listen for buzzards and kestrels, along with cuckoos in the spring. Bring your binoculars to see if you can spot the resident tawny owl in the trees. Stand in the courtyard in the spring to watch house martins swooping back and forth to build nests and feed their young. Did you know that Charlecote has one of the largest heronries in Warwickshire? Spot the herons nesting from February to June, or standing statuesque at the river’s edge throughout the year.

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Top tips for spotting wildlife

There's so much to see at any time of year, so make the most of this beautiful corner of the Warwickshire countryside and follow our top tips.

  • Bring binoculars – you’ll often see young deer or birds if you keep your distance.
  • Bring a magnifying glass – bugs, flowers and lichen are just as interesting as the big things. Be careful on sunny days, magnifying the sun’s rays can harm wildlife.
  • Bring a camera or notebook and pencil - keep a record of what you see and research on the web or at your local library. Share your pictures on social media, we’d love to see them.
  • Pick up a pocket nature guide – the shop at Charlecote has plenty to choose from.
  • Don't be seen – bright clothing can alert deer or other animals to your presence; even your shadow can disturb bugs and insects.
  • Stay quiet and calm – waterproof clothing can be noisy, so you may need to keep still for a while before creatures are brave enough to show themselves.
  • Scents and smells – some perfumes and suntan lotions can be strong, you may find an unscented type is better.
  • Get comfy – bring a chair or rug, some visitors wait for hours to see a kingfisher.

Visit Charlecote's family church

Your parkland stroll will bring you to St Leonard's church, rebuilt by Mary Elizabeth Lucy in memory of her husband. It's free to visit, but please note that the gate is one-way and does not allow re-entry to the parkland so it's a good idea to visit as you head back to the car park.

Rainy days at Charlecote

Don't let a little rain stop you from enjoying a mood-boosting walk, tap into your senses and enjoy everything the rain brings. It’s usually quieter in the parkland on rainy days, so it can be a peaceful visit. Fresh air and switching off is good for us whether the sun is shining or not.

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