The deer are nibbling the grass just outside the window as I write. Two does and a faun that can’t be more than a few days old. Four more, with one buck, are showing their white backsides as they graze the meadow a hundred yards off. They don’t know it, but they’ve just won an argument. The broad meadow below the house, 18 acres dipping down to the Lymington River, will be theirs. Their private park. My foolish idea of a landscaped arboretum goes in the bin.
Young trees and deer don’t mix. I learned the lesson the hard way in France years ago, when my landscaping ambitions were foiled again and again by game of various kinds.
Red deer are more formidable than roe deer, and boar worse than either to a tree- planter and dabbler in streams and ponds. At Saling Hall we had a few visitors, and far worse, muntjac, but managed to handle them on our 12 acres. Here in the New Forest there seems no point. Indeed the deer are the point – originally of the whole forest.
And would a meadow dotted with new trees, however interesting or rare or fiery in autumn, really be more beautiful than a little green park with deer and the few scattered old oaks we have here? Certainly not so appropriate. We (that is our daughter’s family) have a splendid piece of old oak woodland above the meadow. Gentle thinning of the big trees (and clearing of ponticum) will give us forest fringes to adorn with a few new trees I will have to choose with maximum deliberation and protect with scrupulous care. And I shall have much more time to enjoy the wild life.