In my quest for more autumnal adventures (I should have a sort of Autumn Bucket List really) I set my alarm for 5.30am one Saturday in October and drove out to Knole Park, a National Trust property and woodland in Sevenoaks, Kent. My aim was to arrive just before dawn, so that I could catch some photos of the fallow deer that roam the park in the ‘golden hour’ after sunrise. At this time of year the stags are at their biggest, with their antlers ready to fight each other for dominance over the females. Therefore, my walk into Koole had one main purpose, to capture a stag against the dawn sunrise, antlers at their most impressive and the misty autumn air swirling around them.
The 350 strong deer herd that roams Knole are not particularly shy. From the moment I entered the park I could see ears twitching and tails dancing off into the distance at the early morning disturbance. The does (is that the correct plural?) were gathered in small groups, grazing gently in areas sheltered by large trees covered in autumnal colours as the leaves start to fall. I made the most of my telephoto lens and kept my distance from the deer so as not to spook them, but the slightest noise from the camera shutter meant a glance in my direction.
As I came over the brow of the hill, having seen various groups of does, I suddenly saw movement ahead of me and a large stag was there, the dawn light streaming through his antlers and I went into photographic overdrive.
At first he was busy staring off in the distance but as soon as he turned around I knew why getting up at 5.30am hadn’t been a completely mad idea. I kept well back, as the last thing I wanted was an angry stag after me at 7.30 in the morning, and snapped away. We might not have a majestic moose roaming around Britain, but a fallow deer on a brisk Saturday morning definitely got me in the autumnal mood.
After another hour or so wandering around the beautiful grounds of Knole, and encountering more and more deer of various shapes and sizes I headed for the warmth of a local coffee shop and a much needed hot chocolate!