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Deer spotting in Epping Forest

It was a chilly but incredibly sunny winter’s day – the perfect weather to get out into the local woodlands. I had joined a ‘deer walk’, organised by the City of London Corporation, who are responsible for Epping Forest. It was a chance for people of all ages to get off the beaten track and hopefully get a glimpse of the elusive Fallow Deer that roam Epping Forest.

Notoriously flighty and timid around humans, a sighting of a deer was by no means guaranteed. But with the well-trained eye of our guide, we had a good chance of seeing the signs…

Epping-Forest-Deer-Walk-deer-spotting Deer spotting in Epping Forest

As we walked through the forest our guide pointed out signs of the deer. We saw holly trees that would have had their thick, juicy leaves all the way to the floor had the deer not munched them away….

We saw broken branches surrounding the favourite battling grounds or ‘rutting stations’ – where the stags competed with one another in the autumn. But still, we had not yet seen a single deer….

Epping-Forest-Ramble-deer-spotting Deer spotting in Epping Forest

We followed a path out into open fields, past farmland and wonderful autumn trees. Our guide pointed out yet more signs of the deer. We saw the trunks of trees that had been cleared of ivy as high as the deer could reach.

Deer-path-in-grass-deer-spotting Deer spotting in Epping Forest

Here was one of their well-used paths leading to a wooden fence that had been specifically installed for the deer to jump over to avoid the wire fences…

Upshire-Village-deer-spotting Deer spotting in Epping Forest

We passed through pretty Upshire Village and followed on until we reached a footbridge that crossed over the M25 Motorway – a bridge that links both sides of the forest and is well-used by the local deer population.

Fallow-Deer-track-deer-spotting Deer spotting in Epping Forest

At last! Hoof marks! Clearly visible in the sticky mud were lots of deer tracks – the deer must have been here recently. Things were looking up…

With renewed enthusiasm we followed the tracks on the ground. We kept our eyes peeled in the hope of a deer sighting – we even spotted a buzzard high in a tree overlooking the motorway…

Buzzard-deer-spotting Deer spotting in Epping Forest

The light was beginning to fail and I began to doubt we would be seeing any deer that day. But suddenly there were gasps of delight from the front of the group. A small herd of Fallow Deer were bounding at speed through the trees and over a gate towards open pasture. I reached for my camera and caught the last one, just before it leaped out of view!

Fallow-Deer-deer-spotting Deer spotting in Epping Forest

It was a lovely ending to our ‘deer-spotting’ day

Written by Sarah Rees

Environmental Scientist, presenter and keen wildlife photographer; Sarah is also a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. With a background in television production, she launched her online Forestwatch videos to celebrate the diversity of woodland wildlife and ancient trees.

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