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Methods of keeping deer out of woodland

I stood at the edge of woodland boundary the other day and watched a herd of 30 – 40 Fallow deer, moving along the edge of a field adjoining the wood.

The view of so many deer together, with their tails flicking in the winter sunshine, was a breath-taking sight. However, imagine the impact of that number of deer on the wood if they had decided to walk over the field and into Oxlip wood?

Deer like to browse and some of their favourite food are the tender tips from the tops of young trees, so we need to have methods for keeping deer out of woodland if we are to do any replanting of trees in the future.

Hedge laying as a deer barrier

Part of our Forestry Commission management plan recognises the need to fence the wood to stop the deer coming in, which is no small undertaking in a 20 acre wood.

Herras fencing was suggested, but being an ugly option was not one Gerald favoured. So, in typical “let’s do the job properly” style (I think that’s his mantra) he identified a team of people to undertake this enormous (by our standards) task.

Process for laying a hedge

To begin with, the trees along the wood’s boundary had to be partially cut and then bent over to form a barrier.

In some places man pushing stake down through hedgethe trees were so sparse that the end result was obviously not going to provide sufficient barrier to a deer, determined to gain access by climbing through or jumping over the sparse hedge.

When you lay a hedge the bent over material is held in place with long stakes, pushed vertically through from the top into the ground below. Next, binders are woven between the stakes to hold the hedge more securely.

Hedge laying is hard, back-breaking work, especially when the herbage available for the hedge-laying is rather sparse.

On a  beautiful clear day, as pictured to the right, hedge-laying is still hard work but the pleasure and satisfaction of working outdoors takes some of the drudgery out of the task and leaves a sense of satisfaction of a “job well done”.

Appropriate fencing to stop deer coming into woods

There are two kinds of deer that visit Oxlip Wood, Fallow and Muntjac.

Muntjac are our smallest deer species, often seen in as many gardens as woodlands having adapted to urban life in the same way as foxes. If you’ve never seen these small deer you can read more about Muntjac deer – just follow the link.

Personally I like to see the odd Muntjac deer leaping through the wood, having been disturbed by us moving about. However, that’s hang a rather idealised view of the value of deer in woodland, one which I readily admit is not going to help us manage the woodland effectively in respect of encouraging bio-diversity.

Fallow deer are much larger and whilst they are very pretty to look at, they can do a lot of damage to the bark of young trees and through browsing off the new tree’s growing shoots (such a tasty snack for a deer).

So, it’s necessb-hedgelayingcary to fence out the deer to provide an environment where the planting of new trees is going to be a successful venture.

The cheapest way to fence woodland is to use blocks of Herras fencing, which is solid metal mesh and quite ugly, even though very effective. Our wood, being an ancient one, seemed to us to require a more sympathetic approach and so a secondary post and wire fence, inside the laid-hedge was decided upon.

The worst job of all was trying to get the fencing posts into the ground, due to the presence of tree roots. I visited the men, working on this task over a number of weeks, and I did notice a change in the language being used when I hove into view! It really was a most demanding and onerous task. However the end result was simply, quite magnificent.

A deep ditch runs around one side of the wood, making the job of jumping up and over the hedge more challenging for the Fallow deer. Where there is no ditch the fence wire needed to be higher, which meant taller posts. The photo to the right shows a fenced area above a deep ditch, out of sight-line, on the other side of the hedge.

Monitoring the deer, by looking for deer slots (deer footprints) in the wood is now an almost daily game. We also use cameras to record movements, which show a wide variety of mammals and birds that visit and inhabit the wood.


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