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Ashridge Estate news

Fallow Deer have roamed Ashridge for two thousand years, and are a delight to encounter (farmers may beg to differ). They are thought to have been introduced to southern England by the Romans in the 1st Century AD. As often happens with non-native species, they are not in perfect balance with the rest of our natural world. In the absence of a top predator or human intervention, they can build up populations capable of causing significant damage to our trees, and hence harm to the fauna relying on them for food and shelter. The deer nibble young shoots and saplings, and strip the bark from mature trees. This harm can be measured by carrying out deer impact assessment. This is done every spring at Ashridge. In order to maintain deer impacts at a sufficiently low level to ensure that the precious Ashridge ecosystem remains fully functional, some deer have to be culled. This happens every autumn, and numbers targeted are based on the results of the deer impact assessments carried out on the estate.

 

A spin-off is the Ashridge venison, beloved of many, sale of which goes some way to covering the cost of the cull. Better understanding of impacts in recent years has led to larger culls. This has resulted in the deer behaving somewhat more naturally. Large herds (40 plus) are less commonly seen. There have also been fewer collisions with cars. Hearing a rustle in the woods, peering in and seeing a few deer lunching or leaping, remains a delight of a walk in Ashridge – and always will.

 

Incidentally, on a trip to Japan a few years ago I visited the Odaigahara national park. In parts of this park, the deer problem is out of control. The devastation seen in the picture results entirely from deer damage. They are contemplating introducing wolves or feral dogs. Ashridge has no such plans.

Rikki Harrington

How to get in touch…

Gaddesden Society President
Trevor Fernandes 01442 843498

Gaddesden Society Honorary Secretary
Mandy Haynes 01442 842496
mandy.haynesco.fsnet.co.uk

Gaddesden Society Treasurer
Phil Heaphy 01442 842283
[email protected]

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