An English Summer: Fallow deer, uncurling ferns and foxgloves

Barely a drop of rain has been felt for over eight weeks. My 12 year old son and I have decided to make the most of this last day of sunshine, before the much-longed for storm arrives tomorrow. If we take the footpath that winds through the fields, to the north of our village, it gently meanders its way to the deer park.

A gentle breeze ripples through the meadows and the scent of fresh grass and blossom is heavy in the air. We breathe deeply, filling our lungs. Newly sown crops form neat little lines.

The parched ground is cracked and covered in stone chips. We hold tight to the wooden rail, smooth with years of use, as we skid down the final steep slope and enter the park. Hand gel is hastily applied, a pandemic ritual that now feels normal. As the path dips, the cooling breeze disappears and it is stiflingly hot. Our destination is the monument on the distant hill.

The riverside is busy with both deer and tourists. Who could resist being here on such a glorious day? Some people have set up tents. Others are encouraging their children to offer picnic snacks to the wildlife. Wardens arrive in a jeep, firmly advising enthusiastic visitors that the deer are not quite as docile as they look. My arm around my son’s shoulder, we keep our distance. It is a culture shock to see all this bustle after months of staying closer to home. Quickly leaving the cheery crowds and the heat of the valley behind, we begin our ascent to the War Memorial.

My son relaxes now we are alone again and are no longer measuring the space between ourselves and others. He runs, dashes, climbs; darting from one outcrop to another. This year’s bracken is already knee-height and unfurling upwards in search of the sun.

The air is filled with the sound of bees buzzing and the constant clicking thrum of grasshoppers. The marshy pools look a sorry sight; shallow waters greening over with choking algae. Tomorrow’s rain will heal them. Foxgloves spike up amongst the mass of fern.

At the crest of the hill, I gasp in awe. We have greeted the sunrise here on a crisp Christmas morning and never had such far-reaching views. We can see the city of Leicester glimmering in the distance, usually shrouded in a heavy haze. The several month lockdown of both traffic and industry has given nature time to breathe.

We make our descent through cool, shady trees. The quiet is only occasionally broken by piercing, sudden bursts of birdsong. A young buck stalks through the ferns; we stand very still and let him pass.

You can perhaps spot him to the left of centre.

Leaving the parkland, we cross a road and find the half-hidden footpath that leads us back to the fields on the western side of our village. Honeysuckle escapes neighbouring gardens to ramble over the hedgerows.

We skirt our little woodland by taking the buttercup lined path that leads to the dairy farm. The meadows beyond are freshly mown; a tractor noisily gathers up the hay.

Our thoughts turn to our garden as we draw nearer to home. With storms predicted for at least a week, there is a lot of work to be done this afternoon in our vegplot. Talk of which seeds to plant next lasts us all the way back to our front door and waiting family.

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46 Comments

  1. That’s a wonderful view from the top. I do wish people wouldn’t feed wild animals, though. Where I mostly walk, it’s ok to feed the ducks seeds but sometimes you see other things that they shouldn’t be eating. Ducks will come right up, expecting food and when someone tosses down seed, it’s a feeding frenzy. I love the flowers you shared. Foxglove are beautiful even though I know they can also be deadly.

    janet

    1. The deer look very sweet and fluffy but, especially at this time of year and coupled with it being used to visitor during lock down, they can be aggressive. I was pretty glad when the rangers stopped by as a family were encouraging their toddler to go stroke one 😮 I love foxgloves too – I have to plant them well out of reach in our garden, in an old piece of log at the end of the stream 🌿

      1. Yes, deer aren’t just friendly creatures, especially those with antlers. 🙂 I’ve never understood the number of people (incredibly large) who don’t appear to understand the “wild” part of “wild animals” and yes, deer qualify for that. Every year someone visiting Yellowstone Park gets killed by a bison or a bear of something. I mean really, who thinks it makes sense to get close to an animal whose head is as bit as you are? 🙂

        There are lots of foxgloves in France where my s-i-l lives and I love them but I don’t have to worry about anyone eating them. Last year we discovered touch-me-nots. What fun they were!!

        janet

  2. Thanks for taking me on your walk in the countryside. I would be so thrilled to see the deer in their natural surroundings, but while you may be used to their presence, being nature lovers as you are, they’re probably still a precious sight, especially with children in your family.

    Love the wildflower edged pathways. I’m sure many folk are enjoying the clear air without the usual pollution from cars, trucks and industry.

    1. You’re right 🙂 I’ve lived here all of my life and still love seeing the deer. I especially love it when the leap over the river in a big herd 🦌

      It seems to be a bumper year for buttercups – I have never seen so many 🌿

  3. It was lovely to be able to accompany you on your walk and to feel some of the freshness of the countryside. 🙂

  4. WOUNDERFUL JOURNEY – THANK YOU FOR SHARING!!!! I love the tree with the hole in it! It looks like an Elf or Hobbit could pop out at any moment. It’s great to see such amazing walking paths are still out there to enjoy. Thank you!!

    1. Thank you! 😃 A lot of the trees at Bradgate are hollow like that because of lightning strikes, and some you can climb right up into (there’s an ancient post somewhere on my site about the “tree houses” which has better pics) – I love your thought about the hobbit hole! 🌿

  5. You know, I really enjoy your writing. It felt like we were doing your little trip together. Thank you!

    1. Yes we are really lucky – the deer park is a 20 minute walk away across the fields 🙂 The rain did come – it was most welcome! 🌿 I hope you are seeing some of it where you are too ☔️

    1. Hi Laurie 🌼 Our weather keeps yo-yo-ing this year – flooded out in January/February and then no rain for months! A bit of a mix would be just right 🙂🌿

  6. You don’t mention it in the text, but I gather from your tags that you were in Bradgate Park? Lovely place isn’t it. I chuckled at the thought of Leicester “glimmering.” I worked there for several years in the 1990s, and “glimmering” isn’t a word that springs to mind when I look back on my time there! Ah well, I guess that’s an upside to the lockdown.

    1. It is! And yes – I have never seen Leicester look quite like that before and I’m not sure I will again, it’s usually in a sort of fog on the horizon, even on a clear day. We chuckled a lot at your comment 🙂 I hope you managed to get into Charnwood Forest whilst you worked here, it’s a great antidote to the city 🌿

      1. No, never made it to Charnwood, but as I’m only a little way up the M1 in Derbyshire it’s still a possibility. We try to get to Bradgate once a year; for interest, here’s a link to the blog post about our most recent visit: https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/64reflections.home.blog/752

        I still find it amazing that a place as uplifting as Bradgate is just a few miles from the centre of a big, bustling, chaotic city like Leicester!

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