Hoof prints in the Wealden mud, a rustling in the bushes – maybe even a glimpse of fawn-brown coat. Though they may be hard to spot, there are deer all around you in the woods of the High Weald. Deer, with their twitching nostrils and stamping feet, have yet to forget the Medieval hunters who came close to wiping them out.
Deer have been happily roaming the High Weald since the last ice age. First there were our native Roe and Red Deer then, since the arrival of the Normans, the Fallow Deer. In the 12th and 13th centuries, populations boomed as a great wave of deer parks, chases and forests were created by the wealthy landowners of the time. Deer park and deer numbers have fluctuated ever since as land management has changed and several non-indigenous species have been introduced in the last 200 years. During the two World Wars, when manpower was limited, deer parks were left in disrepair and many of these "exotic" species escaped and are now wild.
In the last 40 years, all species of wild deer have thrived; their geographic spread has expanded and their numbers have increased rapidly – in part, because of our milder winters.
As one of the most wooded areas in the country – 25 per cent of the area is woodland – the High Weald is a stronghold for deer.
You may have noticed at this time of year, particularly October and November that you are seeing a lot more deer crossing the roads and lanes of the High Weald. They move between feeding and resting grounds between sunset to midnight and around sunrise and at this time of year as the nights draw in, this unfortunately coincides with the busiest times on our roads which can lead to a huge number of road collisions involving deer.
East Sussex County Council provides more information on how to drive more safely given the number of deer crossing roads.
Discover which species of deer can be found in our countryside.
Visit remnants of the area's medieval deer parks, chases and forests - St Leonards Forest near Horsham, Ashdown Forest near Crowborough, Broadwater Warren near Tunbridge Wells and Bedgebury Forest near Cranbrook.