Today me and my girlfriend spent the day at the National Trust’s Fountains Abbey near Ripon in North Yorkshire. This huge estate of over 800 acres is a World Heritage site and home to the largest abbey ruins in the country. We came specifically here for the Deer Park though, which is home to 500 wild deer (including Red, Fallow and Sika deer).
After following directions given to us from a lady in the visitor centre we soon came across what we hoped for – a herd of Red Deer!
Red deer are our largest native land mammals. They can weigh up to 190kg. In fact they’re one of only two native species of deer in the UK, the other being the Roe deer.
As we stood and admired the herd, more and more kept on arriving from nearby and after retreating to an old hollowed out Sweet Chesnut tree due to rain we watched the herd continue to grow.
October in the UK sees the start of the rutting season for Red deer. The rut is a period when the biggest and strongest male (stag) rounds up a group of females (hinds) for mating. Of course every other male deer wants to do the same, but there’s only so many females to go around.
In order to maintain control over a group of females the stag must constantly drive away rivals. We witnessed this as we watched a stag announce his superiority over other males by constantly bellowing out an echoing roar (sounding something like a cross between a chainsaw and a burp). Truly amazing to see…
After deciding to leave the herd be, we continued our walk through the estate seeing a small herd of Fallow Deer and a single Fallow deer stag resting by a large oak tree.
Before we left we had a quick wander around Fountains Abbey itself, through the numerous passages, staircases and towers. The vaulted ceiling inside the cellarium was particularly notable (the craftsmanship here is truly amazing). To think parts of the abbey have stayed intact since being constructed in 1132 is crazy.
If you haven’t been to Fountains Abbey before I highly recommend you do!