Two species of deer roam the Mortimer Forest at present, these being roe (Capreolus capreolus) and fallow (Dama dama), however, muntjac deer (Muntiacus reevesi) are on the boundary and are sure to become part of the forest ecology in the near future. Roe deer are native to the UK, but were not known in these parts until the 1970’s. They are now widespread and in my opinion would now outnumber the traditional fallow. Fallow deer were introduced to this island by the Normans during the 11th century and our herd now are no doubt descendants of the ancient hunting forests of Mocktree, Deerfold and Bringewood. A percentage of the fallow deer of Mortimer Forest are famous for a particular characteristic, a long haired coat, and this is the only place in the world they are to be found. First described in the 1950’s by Forestry Commission ranger Gerald Springthorpe, they are noticeable by a generally scruffier coat, long eyelashes, long tail, long ear tufts and a curly hairstyle!
Mortimer Forest straddles the Shropshire & Herefordshire border near the town of Ludlow
Why its at risk
- A lack of information for consumers about its nutritional value
- Misunderstandings about flavour
- Cultural prejudice – a sentimental attitude to deer
- Loss of skilsl on the part of the consumer, including chefs
- Poor presentation by retailers of a meat which can appear challenging
- A lack of education about the environmental risks ‘use it or lose it ‘
- A lack of education about the need to cull (shoot) the animals as part of the active management of the deer and the ancient forest, and of the seasonality of supply due to the closed(breeding)season.
- Mortimer Forest is only 2000 acres