England has an abundance of beautiful and fascinating wildlife, you just have to know where to look. Watch wild ponies at play, witness the spectacle of rutting deer and the oddity of boxing hares in some of the best places to see wildlife in England.
Derbyshire: Red Deer
There’s more to deer than Bambi. The elegantly ‘doe-eyed’ and majestic red deer is Britain’s largest land mammal and indigenous to the UK. Red deer can be seen all over the country, with the greatest numbers being in the Lake District, southwest of England and East Anglia.
Derbyshire deer have been living freely for over a thousand years with a growing herd of red deer living on Big Moor in the Peak District The red deer population here has grown substantially from just three in the 1980s to at least thirty five now, with the extended population of over 400 thought to be spread over the larger East Moor.
Deer are fascinating to watch, elegantly beautiful in their movement with a fierce strength and power that can be seen in their mating battles when the males are rutting antlers. Full of testosterone, they can be extremely aggressive, so care needs to be taken when watching these deer in the wild.
Autumn is the time to see red deer rutting, particularly during October, with the best displays usually being at dawn. Bring your binoculars to the southern part of the Peak District and join the National Trust’s Red Deer Walk. Find out more about holidays in Derbyshire.
The Cotswolds: Brown Hares
There’s more to leaping hares than Bright Eyes. Great Britain has three types of hare: the mountain hare, Irish hare and most commonly, the brown hare, recognised by their rich brown fur, white tummies and long, dark-tipped ears. The often-elusive wild hares can be seen running around the open plains and arable farmland of Cambridgeshire and all over the Cotswolds. Britain’s fastest land mammal, the brown hare can reach speeds of around 40 miles per hour!
Usually rather solitary creatures, they are known as ‘mad March hares’ when the male hares seek out the females that have just come into season around March each year. When a male oversteps the mark, the female hare appears to fight him off by standing on her hind legs and using her front paws like a boxer!
If you want to be lucky enough to witness the spectacle of the ‘mad March hares’, then the best time to see them is in the evening or first thing in the morning. The best places to see hares is on the Marlborough Downs in Wiltshire, over the chalk downs and in the Upper Thames and Cotswold Wildlife Park regions, in Braydon Forest and on Salisbury Plain. Find out more about holidays in the Cotswolds.
Devon: Dartmoor Ponies
Grazing on the hauntingly atmospheric moors for centuries, the handsome Dartmoor ponies have become an iconic sight in Devon. A hardy breed, ancestors of these wild ponies have been wandering the moors for over 3,000 years although sadly their numbers have diminished greatly in recent years. There are now just 1,500 wild ponies on Dartmoor in contrast to around 30,000 in 1950.
By grazing the moor, these beautiful wild ponies play a vital role in supporting wildlife and maintaining a variety of habitats. Although the ponies live wild, the farmers and residents of Dartmoor who have grazing rights on the open moor are ultimately responsible for overseeing the health of the herds of wild ponies that live freely on their land.
The Dartmoor ponies are absolutely wonderful to behold but it must be remembered that they are wild animals and since most have never been handled, they should not be approached. Instead, observe and admire their graceful movement and peaceful contentment from a distance. Find out more about holidays in Devon.
See Wildlife in England
The best place to see wildlife is from a distance, especially if you are taking children with you. Watching wildlife is a different experience to going to a zoo since wild animals are free and with that freedom comes a certain unpredictability - you never know what they might do. You should also ensure you respect their environment as you watch in wonder at their interesting ways and natural beauty. For more animal adventures, find out where to see puffins in Cornwall and other more unusual wildlife in the UK.