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  • Julie Muller

EASTNOR PARK - Hidden Deer

Updated: Jan 28, 2022

(Nearest post code - HR8 1RN)

Visited by Zak and Shep

At a meeting of four tracks, a large wooden gate opens into Eastnor Deer Park.

At the entrance to the park there were signs prohibiting mountain bikes but Shep and I were welcome as long as Julie kept us under close control. From past experience we know that sheep live here. They have a nasty habit of emerging from the bushes without warning or lurking in the undergrowth.

Zak, the Border Collie, walks up towards the Obelisk in Eastor Deer Park in Herefordshire with views towards May Hill
Zak striding up towards the Obelisk in Eastor Deer Park, Herefordshire

There were numerous heaps of soil littered on one side of the path.

The moles had been very busy. I nuzzled one of the mole hills with my nose but the little velvet coated creator had long since gone.

Above us, the Obelisk stood tall and proud seeming to scrape the grey stormy sky. Built by a proud father in memory of his son, the obelisk occupies the highest point on the Eastnor Estate.

From here there are far reaching views towards the Welsh Hills which today were shrouded in ominous steel grey mist. Below us the fairy tale like Eastnor Castle nestled in the fold of the land. Behind us the Malvern Hills broke the sky like breaching grey whales.

Eastnor Park was once part of the great Malvern Chase forest, a portion of which was enclosed into the estate in the fifteenth century. Many of the trees growing here are vestiges of that ancient woodland and Julie looked in vain for the famous wild service tree reputed to be the biggest in the country but to no avail. It is quite hard to identify trees in winter.

The trees that lined the path were quite low growing and their branches were all tangled with each other battered by the elements on this highest point of the SSSI. It looked like that there were oak leaves and hawthorn leaves on the ground. They were damp and soft to our paws. Two yew trees grabbed our attention. They were both shaped like gigantic gob-stopper lollipops, their lower trunk completely bare of branches. One of them was at a particularly jaunty angle. Something had clearly been munching on the lower branches which is surprising because yew is poisonous to most animals - all except deer. Eastnor Park is home to a large herd of red deer which suffer no ill effects from eating yew and indeed find it very tasty in the long winter months. So many other trees on the park were enclosed in special deer guards to protect them.

We didn’t see, hear or smell any deer today. Last time we came here we saw them silhouetted on the horizon, their strong earthy scent wafting towards us. Standing upwind of us, they were totally unaware of us.

Today they were probably lying low out of the teeth of the wind.

We marched down the hill into much more distinctive parkland and followed the white topped fence posts as requested eager to find our way to another SSSI - Ridgeway Wood but it proved harder than Julie had anticipated. A large flock of sheep munched contentedly on the grass. Julie held tightly on to our leads – suppressing our instinct to herd them.

Two sheep dogs lie down by the lakes in Eastor Deer Park SSSI in Herefordshire
Zak and Shep resting by the lakes in Eastor Deer Park in Herefordshire

Two ponds seemed to block our way but we found a path between them. The ground beneath our paws was pockmarked with the prints of many animals. A group of mallard ducks laughed at us from the safety of the water and the wind blew ripples from one side of the pond to the other. We knew the general direction that we had to go and continued to follow the white topped posts up a steep hill dotted with enormous parkland trees impressive in spite of their nudity – some decorated with great globes of mistletoe.

At this point Julie seemed to have lost our way. I grabbed a discarded grey and black training shoe that I had found in the undergrowth and tossed it around by its laces while I waited for her to sort us out.

We found a large metal animal trough complete with invitingly clean fresh water in the corner of a field.

As Shep was about to drink, a pheasant erupted from the thicket behind. Shep panicked and hurtled back towards Julie. Refreshment stop over!!

By this time, we were actually walking along the side of Ridgeway Wood and looking for a way to get in. It looked like there was a pheasant enclosure inside the wood but we couldn’t see any birds. Where were they hiding and more importantly, how could we get in?

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