For a few weeks in the summer of 2011, we placed a map in the village shop to collect deer sightings, and, thanks to 30 or so contributions, we now have a map showing where deer are most often seen. Deer are creatures of woodland margins that retreat into the shadows when they feel danger, but move out into the clearings when they want to graze, so we were not surprised to see that here, too, they concentrate along the fields closest to the woods. They are present in the common woods to the north and west of the Hudnalls, and in Oakhill Wood (Madgetts) to the south, so they are approaching from three points of the compass. Once in our fields, they find that many are small, ringed by trees and high hedges, and seem to have no inhibitions about ranging out towards Harthill, leaving only the village centres and a belt from around the Mackenzie Hall to the Hewelsfield cross-roads untouched.
What are the lessons? Amongst several that come to mind are: be careful where you buy a house if your ambition is to have a colourful and productive garden; spend hours carefully protecting individual plants; learn to love deer and confine your gardening to spiny shrubs, springs bulbs and a few deer-proof herbs; or, face the need to cull deer in the woods and perhaps also some of the fields before they get any more numerous. Fencing is an obvious recourse, but fences need to be high and strong, and well pegged down at the base. Deer have a reputation for claustrophobia, so one might try to get away with lower fencing of small plots, but they are clearly more intelligent and less neurotic than that implies, for they still raided fenced strawberry beds and ate the lot - twice in two separate locations - even though they were near the houses
So, our thanks to everyone who contributed. There are many gaps, so more observations are welcome. All we asked was how often you see deer close to your home or in the nearest fields. We would particularly like to know more about when you started to see deer near you; and from anyone whose observations contradict the general pattern shown on our map. And, if numbers change in future, we would like to know about that.