Yet quacks and weirdos persist in the wholly unsubstantiated claims that Friston Forest is populated by deer.
Oh yeah? Let me see 'em. Or some tracks, or some poo, or some antlers.
I've been going to that forest, man and boy, for nearly 40 years. I've had a close encounter with a badger, seen several foxes on dusky bike rides (I was riding the bike, not them) and disturbed many a pheasant. I've found toads in the undergrowth, all manner of creepy-crawlies, and stumbled upon a dead human body. (It had been cremated, but don't imagine for one moment that made it any less creepy.) As a kid, I almost trod on an adder. Today I found a decapitated mouse. And that, my friends, is about it.
The idea that deer are cavorting around the beech glades is gaining popular currency, but I cannot for the life of me find anyone who's actually seen one - or, more precisely, can prove that they have. Those wags at the Forestry Commission are in on the joke: their website insists that "glimpses of rare butterflies like the fritillaries and elusive deer can reward patient observers," but I would suggest there is a big difference between a roebuck and a red admiral, and certainly between the size of net required to catch either.
This is "fairies at the bottom of the garden" territory. I suspect the people who have "seen" deer at Friston are the same troubled loners, equipped with the cheapest available cameras and Primark combat jackets, who are regularly "abducted" by UFOs and assured they will be spared when the invasion of earth occurs.
Just as the famous sceptic James Randi will offer $1 million to anyone who can scientifically prove they have paranormal abilities, so I will issue an apology and a £1 book token to any deer-stalkers who can send me a genuine photograph of this elusive and beautiful beast at Friston. Some venison sausages will count towards the evidence.