Deer Me

I always enjoy some blue-sky thinking – especially when it’s clearly intended as a wind-up. Which meant that I specially liked WG’s comment a couple of days ago:

“With regards the deer enclosure – is this the optimum use of quite a large slice of Greenwich Park? There are only two cramped observation areas with prison-like security to stop fingers being nibbled. I suggest they are moved to Bushy or Richmond Park where they will be free to roam and do something a bit more beneficial.”

Okay – let’s run with that. It’s not something I had ever considered – I confess I can’t imagine Greenwich Park without the deer. They’ve been here for longer than we have – at least since Henry VII’s time and yet it’s us that have slowly pushed them further and further back until they’re shoved into a corner next to the compost heaps and the rubbish bins.

It’s not so long ago deer roamed freely through the park – and, as you can see from the 1903 postcard above, until 1927 feeding them was part of the fun of a day out to Greenwich.

Not that that came without its attendant problems. People tended to assume that the deer enjoyed scoffing whatever they enjoyed – and there were a few casualties along the way. Post-mortems revealed

Death By:
  • Gooseberry Tart
  • Sweeties
  • Orange peel
  • Mutton bones
  • Strips of cloth
  • Leather and, ahem,
  • Venison.
Deer have always been around Greenwich park by default, but it was 1653 that a specific herd of 96 deer was officially brought in (along with a small stock of conies, which, inexplicably, don’t seem to have bred like the proverbial rabbits…)

Numbers have increased and decreased over the years, and yes, WG, some were moved to Bushy Park in the 1850s when they got a bit numerous. Every so often they bring new males in to make sure the stock stays strong.

I think it’s a shame the deer have to be locked away these days – presumably for their own good, but I don’t see any real reason for getting rid of them altogether. The park is huge – we don’t really need any more space – besides – I rather like there being a secret ‘secluded’ area.

The deer are charming – and while I’ll agree that the double – or is it triple now – row of wire netting makes it hard to feel close to these animals in any real way, I still enjoy taking a trip to the south end of the park. Sometimes they’re really near the fence; other times they’re not to be seen at all. I like that pot-luckery – it makes me feel privileged when I do see them.

Thing is, the deer enclosure isn’t just for deer. At the risk of coming over all eco-warrior, it’s a habitat for all manner of other wildlife from bats to moths, funghi to flowers.

But let’s not dismiss the idea altogether. Hmm. Let me think. What would the benefit of moving the deer be? Well, I could sleep easy on Blackheath Fireworks Night, knowing the deer aren’t frightened out of their furry wits, for a start.

Maybe there is a better use for the land. Her Majesty could flog it off for some luxury flats, perhaps. Or Greenwich Inc could put a venison-themed mid-price restaurant franchise there. How about a pony paddock, complete with baby jumps as a lovely legacy for 2012?

Suggestions here, please, folks…

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