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Posted Jul 20 2010 1:17am

I thought I was going to Dyrham Park in Gloucestershire to see the gardens, but the deer immediately stole the show.

As soon as the great house comes into view, the deer grazing on the front lawn beckon you on for a closer look.  While the house is stately and centuries old, it’s the deer that make this vista feel like you’re on a magic carpet ride back in time.

These gorgeous creatures are obviously accustomed to having visitors in their park because they allow folks like me to come within about 10 feet (carefully avoiding deer scats) to admire and photograph them.  Maybe feeling safe around people is in their genes, since their ancestors have been in this deer park since 1620.

I remember seeing allusions to fallow deer during my PhD studies in medieval English literature, confirmed by the following entry on the British Deer Society web site (whose close-ups of the deer are better than mine!)

The extant species of fallow deer found in Britain was introduced by the Normans in the 10th century although some would suggest that the Romans attempted to introduce it here much earlier. Fallow deer were prized as ornamental species and were protected in Royal Hunting “Forests” for royal sport. During Mediaeval [stet] times many deer parks that held fallow deer were established and these and more recent park escapees have given rise to the free-living populations in Britain today.

Aren’t their antlers and markings fabulous?

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