Oh Deer! – Part 1 of 2

An anecdote from a lifetime of running a wildlife sanctuary.

Tinkle, tinkle went the phone, tinkle, tinkle tinkle; Tinkle my eye! It went more like shrill, shrill, shrill, shrill, bloody shrill, shrill. I am not at my best on a morning, especially an early frosty morning. I managed to pad my way from the warmth of the kitchen, across the cold wooden floor. As I reached out tentatively to strangle the black beast I jumped involuntary as it shrieked again. I always try to answer the phone civilly and to try and tell anyone who works here to do the same. This morning I tried to remember my preaching but I managed only “Hello”.

The person on the other end of the line was at least a little flustered, I could tell because the story she had to tell me started at the end and went backwards. In the calmest voice I could muster I asked her to calm down and start at the beginning.

“It’s a deer and it’s caught in some fencing wire”.

“Ok “I said, “How badly is it caught?”

“It’s got the wire around its horns and whatever it does it can’t seem to free itself”.

“Right” I replied, “I need to know where the deer is”.

“It’s down Derwent Water up near Ashness Bridge”.

“Any better directions?” I asked.

“Don’t worry we will wait for you” came the voice “we will show you the exact spot”

“You do know that I am miles away, it will take at least an hour or so to reach you.”

I was informed “It doesn’t matter how long, we will wait. I think you will need wire cutters and …..”

I cut her short and said “I will bring whatever I need and the longer I talk the longer I will be.”

“Right Ho!” the voice replied and the phone went dead.

Over the years, we have been called out to quite a few Roe Deer trapped in wire of one kind or another and keep, or try to keep, all the necessary bits of equipment in one place. But it never works!

So I spent the next ten minutes or so first trying to find the box, never mind the wire cutters and bolt cutters (well you never know), various pliers and a large cloth bag to put over the deer’s head to help keep it calm whilst we try to extricate the beast. As I went about looking for this and that I took a swig out of the now, almost cold, tea.

Better get off I thought, making sure everything was secure (That’s a laugh as for years the doors to both front and back were never locked). Out at the car I gave a cursory look through the rear window just to check, opened the front gates and was away.

It was a beautiful morning, a little bit cold but beautiful none the less. Some of the trees were shedding their leaves, whilst others had changed colour to a multitude of browns, reds and gold. The rising sun had removed the frost from the grass but there was still plenty of hoare where it had not yet reached along the hedges. A slight mist rose from the warming tarmac of the road and little pockets still dwelt in the hollow. The traffic was light this early and I made good progress to my destination; however the winding road along the lakeside did manage to slow my journey a little.

Reaching Keswick I made a right turn in the town centre, and pressed on down Derwent Water. The lake was a mirror this morning, nothing to disturb the surface and Catbells on the opposite shore could be seen as if it were upside down. A sight worth getting out of bed for!

The turn for Ashness is a little bit awkward but soon I squiggled my way along the twisting uphill road. A quick jink right and then left and I was over Ashness Bridge – still heading uphill.

After going over the little humpback bridge on the left is what looks like an old shepherd’s stone building and almost opposite a small car park. There weren’t any cars this time of morning and with the sun melting the light frost on the grass, a slight mist made the place look almost magical. Under different circumstances this place could look eerie if not sinister.

Through the mist a figure loomed towards my car. Before I could stop the figure was knocking on the window. I could not make out what was being said and had to wind down the window.

“Are you the vet?” was the first words I heard, and quickly informed the young woman I was not, but would have to do for now.

“Quick, the deer has stopped moving, It may be dead” She almost sobbed.

“I have been as quick as I could” was my instant reply. I almost had to force the door open to get out, she was as close as a second skin and followed me to the rear of the car. I almost caught her chin as I opened the back door, but she still insisted on being as close as she could.

“Can I carry anything?” She questioned.

I gave her a couple of towels and that seemed to satisfy her for now.

Still trying to find everything in the boot, the young lady had already set off across the car park, looking over her shoulder every few steps just to make sure I wasn’t dawdling.

“I am Molly” she informed me, looking over her shoulder yet again. By now she was about 60yds in front of me and making ground. The fencing was about two feet high where visitors had squeezed it to almost half its original height. Molly was over like a trail hound and it seemed to me gathering speed.

“Not far now” she almost shouted.

Now I had reached the fence or what remained of it, as I stepped over the wire I stopped as if walking into a plate glass window. My blood began to run cold as the saying goes. It was as if I was transfixed. This was the time I should have walked away. This was the time I should have left everything to some other stupid person.  What I saw in front of me was a young woman waving her arms about. She was obviously trying to say something but it was as if I had turned deaf.

My attention was drawn to a scene some yards away from the gesticulating young woman.

I tried to shout quietly but my throat was dry, the words came out like a frog with laryngitis.

“Come back, don’t go any nearer!” There was no response just more arm waving.

On the ground about ten yards in front of Molly wasn’t a Roe deer stuck in the fence; it was a quarter of a ton of male Red Deer with antlers ten feet wide…

To be continued…