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Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Winter feeding at Charlecote Park

Winter is so different at Charlecote Park. It is a quieter time to reflect as you walk around the park and gardens which I really enjoy. I love this time of year. You never really know what the mornings will bring.
As you walk around the park you could almost be fooled into thinking you were alone on the estate or that the park was yours. Well, we all dream from time to time :) Not everyone likes early mornings but to me they are the best part of the day especially when you are out with nature.
Just before the Sun comes up and for about half an hour afterwards is the best time to see many wildlife creatures. The Owls are hooting, birds are tweeting, wild hares are up and darting around and last week I managed to see my first red fox for a long time. Unfortunately I couldn't photograph it as it was too quick for me plus I had the wrong lens on my camera at the time. It is how it goes sometimes. You can't always photograph everything but you can watch and admire the view.

It might be colder and there might be less people around at Charlecote during the winter months but still the work goes on. The house elves have been very busy getting the house cleaned and ready for the opening which was a couple of weeks ago. The office staff have been busy keeping everything going day to day and planning for the year ahead and the gardeners and rangers are out in all weathers doing what they do best, looking after the estate, caring for the animals and preparing the gardens for the beautiful displays that will adorn them in the coming months.

I thought it would be nice to do a little behind the scenes look at some of the things that go on during the Winter months, starting with the feeding of the animals and continuing from a previous blog.

Most of the year the deer and sheep graze the land happily as there is plenty for them to eat. During the Winter months, they are given a little helping hand. As the Sun comes up, someone is out on the feed run, loading the buggy several times until all the animals are fed.

I go in early from time to time to catch the feeding of the animals as well as the sunrise. On one of my recent visits, I had a perfect morning, the ground was frozen, the Sun was just coming up and there was a low mist on the land which gave me a very beautiful view. A perfect start to the day.

'Sheep in the mist'

The sheep kindly posed for me while I was waiting for the deer feeding to start.

The deer waiting for their feed.

Paul was feeding the animals this day and he was with Rosie, the lovely volunteer coordinator who  was taking photos from inside the buggy. I have to say, Rosie takes some lovely photos herself which you might have seen on Facebook and Twitter. I have some serious competition there :)

For the deer feed, I switched my camera into video mode because I don't think you can appreciate the view in still photos.

I did take a couple of photos but not many.

After the deer in West Park it was on to Polo to feed the Jacob sheep. They were also waiting for their breakfast!

Jacob sheep, like all sheep, graze all day long. In Winter they are given hay and sugar-beet to help get them through the colder months before everything starts to grow again. The sheep love the sugar-beet. They will push and shove each other about getting to it.

Just like the deer, they will also follow the food and you can often see them all charge across the field to where the buggy stops.

Here are a couple of photos from a previous morning.

I always find the fighting for the sugar beet funny as there is plenty for everyone but they fight over the same pieces while there are untouched beet just a few feet away. Don't worry, they get eaten too!

The older sheep always go for the beet first, then they eat the hay. The lambs eat it the other way around.

             Paul and David out feeding the animals together.

After the sheep in Polo were fed, it was off to feed last year's lambs which, as you will see have grown.

Like all youngsters, they also get covered in their food!


This next photo reminds me of the old film 'The Lady and the Tramp' Who needs spaghetti when you have hay?

The lambs eat the hay first because it is easier for them as they graze all the time. They have to learn how to eat the sugar beet but it doesn't take them long and they, like the older sheep, love it too!

When the sheep are in the main area of the park, be it Hill Park or West Park, you have to watch the deer. They are a little greedy and love the beet too! An electric fence doesn't stop them stealing the sheep's food!

                     It's like watching a game of high jump!

 The deer in Main Park also have to be fed and they are waiting for the sound of the buggy.

The ground is frozen beneath their feet but  they have their winter coats on and adjust to the colder weather just fine. During the Winter you can only see the spots on the lightest of the fallow deer. The deer everyone thinks of as the 'Bambi' deer with it's tan coloured fur and beautiful white spots, change to a darker thicker coat as in the picture below. In a few weeks that will start to change again and you will once more see the Summer coat.

The next photo shows you the Summer coat with a heavily pregnant doe on the right.

I watch the deer often. I find a quiet place and study their behaviour which I find really interesting. I now know when the park is open by the way the deer react and not by seeing any visitors. It is the same as the buggy with their breakfast, they can hear it well before I can which always gives me a warning to get my camera ready.

I have to admire the Park and Garden team who both look after the animals. They are out in all weather making sure the animals are fed, healthy and well looked after.

Rain, snow, frost or thick fog, they are there and it is not until you are out there with them, that you can really appreciate all they do. This I have shown you is just the beginning of the day, there is a lot more work to be done.

Matt on a very cold foggy morning.

At the end of any morning feed comes a very welcome tea break .....and cake! All before the park opens.

A big thanks to both the Park and Garden team for allowing me to tag along so often. It is much appreciated and something I really enjoy. Thank you.

                                        Copyright Jana Eastwood


  1. Thanks for sharing, Jana. Your awesome photos are really the next best thing to actually being there! I love seeing them. Pam-California USA

  2. Hi Pam,
    You are very welcome. I am so pleased you enjoy my photos.There are plenty more on their way :)
    Best wishes