Point-scoring in Staffordshire

14-point stag, Chasewater park

I’m not a particularly religious person, but I do to try to keep my promises. So when many years ago I promised to keep an eye on the tiny baby who was my God-daughter, I got lucky. Because it turns out that, now a grown woman,  she’s as nutty about nature as I am. So a trip to Staffordshire to see her was a doubly welcome event. I got to spend some precious time with her, and we spent it (and I know, it’s so obvious that I don’t know why I’m saying it)…. stalking deer. Not across the wilds of Scotland or Exmoor, but across the not-so-wilds of Chasewater  country park in Staffordshire. At 360 hectares, Chasewater essentially an annex to nearby Cannock Chase. It’s a vast space with a mixture of reservoir, ponds, country park, steam railway, open moorland and woodland. It’s well known that Cannock Chase itself has herds of Fallow and Red Deer plus the occasional Muntjac. At 6,900 hectares, Cannock Chase leaves Chasewater looking like a puddle next to Cannock’s Lake Windermere. But some of the deer, despite intervening roads and  hordes of people, seem to like hanging around Chasewater.

Despite a reputation for being elusive and hard to see, finding red deer at Chasewater wasn’t hard. When I arrived, a group of does were hanging around on the edge of the car park, and seemed only slightly bothered by the gathering hordes of a fun run. But they weren’t what I was hoping to see.

red deer hind
red deer hinds, Chaswater car parkThe rut, that annual event where Stags fight for the right to mate, was only just winding down, and I was hoping to find one, crowned in its full antlered glory. So when my God-daughter arrived we set off together, following one of the park’s trails away from the lake and the watersports and the bobbing sea of fluorescent lycra, into the wilder reaches and the damp woodland that is the red deer’s preferred natural habitat. We think of Red Deer as living on moors and mountains, and they do – but only because those are the places where they are allowed to live. Give them a free choice, and they are riverine animals, lovers of damp and boggy places where they have few competitors for their browse.It took a while of walking before we saw a brief glimpse of antler in a copse of trees on the other side of a too-wide stream. It took more walking to find a suitable crossing point, and still more walking to make it back. Was it worth it?  Oh yes. Moving downwind and quietly, we finally managed to hear the sound I’d been hoping for. They call it ‘bolving’, and there annual competitions to see who can do the best impression, but to me it sounds like the world largest rusty hinge being pushed open. And there he was.


14-point stag, Chasewater park
14-point stag, Chasewater park

This was the top guys, and he was trotting around with a small herd of does, making sure no other stag tried t steal them away. Although the number of ‘points’, or prongs on an antler is no indicator of age, this was a fully mature stag, in his prime. With 14 points (7 on each antler) he was an ‘Imperial’ stag. Two more would make him a ‘Monarch’, as in the famous painting the ‘Monarch of the Glen’.

The company of a special human and, briefly, the company of a special animal. Now that’s what I call a good day out.

Site Footer