Sunday, June 15, 2008

Deer in Friston Forest

Seaford is not rich in conspiracy theories - though it is, of course, the duty of all parents to feign shock at the sight of the aircraft beacon on the Head and proclaim it to be an alien spacecraft.

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.


Sam I Am said...

Footnote: I have since discovered that there ARE deer in Friston Forest. Apologies for any inconvenience caused.

Unknown said...

Saw a beauty this morning whilst out roller skiing in the forest, quite small and dark coloured, with a lovely white behind. Stood and watched me for a while before leaping off.

Alan MacKenzie said...

Hi there, I am a wildlife photographer and I stumbled across your blog, while researching information about deer in Friston Forest. I would be very grateful, if you could tell me whereabouts in the forest, you saw the deer and which species? Many thanks. Alan Mackenzie.

Unknown said...

To Alan Mackenzie. I assume the deer are either Roe or Fallow. I've never seen one terribly close, but they are quite small, and do not appear to have a white breast, so they may be Roe. I have seen them in numerous locations within the forest, wandering across or standing close by the fire road, and always very early in the morning. But they are there, and with a little patience combined with the right time of day, you'll see them. Best of luck!!

Alan MacKenzie said...

Hi Tim, thanks ever so much for your reply. Please could you be more specific about where in the forest you saw the deer? This will help me pinpoint them and discover the size of their territory. Sounds like they are Roe deer - white behind and small. I have experience of Roe deer stalking near Brighton. I would like to be the first person to photograph them in Friston Forest!

Unknown said...

Hi Alan,

I have seen the deer on three occasions, this is why I find it difficult to understand why they are famed for being so elusive. My guess is that either people are not in the forest at the right time of day, or, if they are, they are walking their dogs, and are therefore frightened off before people get to see them. The best way for me to tell you more or less where I saw them, as I know the forest pretty well, is for you to go to google maps, and get a satellite close up of the forest. You will see that there are fire tracks in the forest running pretty much right round it, and crossing it. Find the track in the southern part of the forest, paralleling the A259 in a WNW direction. Travelling along that from East to West, you get to the first fire road on your right that runs up to the north Eastern corner of the forest. As I turned right onto that track, I saw a beautiful deer standing about 40 yards away, he or she saw me, and leaped off. The next time I saw a deer was again early in the morning during the summer between 5-6am, and it was whilst i was skiing along the fdire track that cuts through the middle of the forest in a NW direction. This time I heard the noise of a large animal to my right, and caught sight of the deer running away from me, then stopping to look at me, but again, not close enough to get a photo. Funnily enough, I always carry a camera, but the deer do not stay around to get photographed unfortunately. The other occasion was up in the NE corner of the forest as I was coming up the hill, a deer bolted across the track from right to left and was gone. Hope that helps. It certainly leads me to the conclusion that you could see them anywhere within the forest. What a wonderful way to spend your time, photographing wildlife! I live in Bexhill, and to the north of us we have very large areas of forest. We are always seeing deer when we walk there in the evenings, and I very often see them when I am out cycling. It is a wonderful feeling to see wild animals isn't it? I lived in the Russian Arctic for three years, and was lucky enough one day whilst out skiing to see a mother wolf and her cub, really close as well. I fumbled for my camera barely able to believe what I was seeing, but by the time I had got the camera out of my backpack, they were climbing out of the gorge away from me, though I did manage to photograph them, though further away than I'd have liked. I guess it's all about being in the right place at the right time when photographing wildlife.

Well, hope you get some great shots. If you do, I'd very much appreciate it if you'd send me one, my little boy is mad about animals, especially foxes.

Good luck!

Alan MacKenzie said...

Thanks ever so much for the information, Tim. I know the forest well, but your observations will help me target the areas in which the Roe deer are likely to appear. I will visit Friston Forest at dawn in the coming weeks. I may even bump into you!

I was absolutely thrilled to discover Roe deer just outside Brighton last September. I am looking forward to seeing the Kids in May/June. I prefer to photograph the Roe deer in spring/summer/autumn, because there is more vegetation and leaf cover, making it easier lie in wait, without causing distress to the animals.

Please could you tell me the names of the woods north of Bexhill, so I can pinpoint them on my OS map and catch the train? Thanks.

Have you seen my website? Do take a look and leave a comment.

Once again, many thanks for the information!


Unknown said...

Alan, the whole forested area just NW of Battle is teeming with deer. This area is my cycling territory and out early in the morning I see a lot of deer in this area. We quite often drive to Darwell Wood for a walk, and often see deer especially towards evening. It is a bit inaccessible by public transport, closest station being Battle from where you take a taxi. You can gain access into the forest from the car park just south of Cackle Street, Landranger Map 199, grid reference 695/196, from where trails go off into the forest in several directions, though we usually see the deer away from the reservoir where the forest is thickest. It really is a beautiful place, and believe me, you'd never know you were in Sussex.

Good photographing!

Alan MacKenzie said...

Hi Tim, I've finally seen a Roe deer in Friston Forest - at 20:23 on Tuesday 26th April 2011!

I spotted a year-old buck in the Sussex Wildlife Trust Friston Forest Grazing Project enclosure, walking down a path. I had thought for a long time that the enclosure, situated in the northern end of Friston Forest would be home to deer, owing to the lack of human visitors. I hid behind a bush and waited for him to saunter past, which he did. The poor light meant that photography was out of the question. I can report that he featured small antlers, with two spikes. The buck's antlers had recently shed their velvet and his winter coat was moulting. He was very small and slender - clearly some time away from physical maturity, although he will be sexually mature. I intend to remain in Friston Forest overnight at some point during the summer. I will take a sleeping bag, a few beers and the bare minimum equipment needed for deer photography - camera body, telephoto lens and monopod. When I have the pictures, I will of course let you know!

Unknown said...

Congratulations Alan, I knew they were there! The all nighter sounds great, just hope you get some photo opportunities. Haven't been to the Forest of late, but aim to get at least one early morning ski in this Summer.

All the best, and good luck!
ps- Had a look at your website-thought it was terrific!

Alan MacKenzie said...

Here is the first ever photo of a Roe deer in Friston Forest :

Unknown said...

The deer are Roe deer. I saw 2 this morning at around 7.30am.