The time I spent in Norfolk led to enchanting encounters with the secretive Roe deer. These charming creatures captured my imagination and so I decided to devote my time to studying them in depth.
Above: My image of Roe deer won first place in the British Deer Society’s 50th Anniversary Open Photographic Competition in 2013.
“They have a strange, fairy-like quality which puts them in a class entirely of their own… the shy, ghost-like roe, timid and swift…” The words of John Wyatt, in his book “The Shining Levels”, summarise eloquently both the inspiration and the nature of the challenge I had set myself. How do you photograph a wild animal regarded by experts as an ‘ephemeral’ spirit?
With perseverance and patience I developed relationships of trust with two bucks. To such an extent that when I appeared, so would they. Their behaviour around me was relaxed and natural, as they knew I posed no threat. It was a privilege to have been allowed into the secret world of such enduringly free spirits.
Left: The older of the two Roe bucks I worked with in his prime. Right: The same buck two years later.
It was perhaps no coincidence that the nearby market town of Dereham is believed to have been named after a deer park which once existed in the area. There is also a saintly connection between deer and Dereham. St Withburga, a daughter of a 7th century king, prayed for the appearance of wild does to provide milk for the workers building her monastery.
The Roe deer’s history in the British Isles goes back thousands of years. Roe deer were in the British Isles long before the first human settlers. However, due to hunting Roe had all but vanished from England by the late 16th century. Only a few small remnants of their population survived in parts of Scotland.
Above: The younger of the two Roe bucks I regularly photographed.
Their fate changed in the 19th century, when a handful of animals were reintroduced from France and Germany. Thanks in part to stricter controls on hunting, there is now a thriving population. There are estimated to be 500,000 Roe deer roaming freely in Britain now.
To my mind, the Roe deer symbolises hope for any species on the brink. Ancient yet highly adaptable, a dynamic wild spirit of the British countryside.