I’ve just heard some news that’s sadened and upset me.
This morning I phoned Mike to book in my Christmas steer and some lambs. After the usual, good humoured tongue-in-cheek banter about my fluffy inadequacies, he turned serious…
‘You’m heard the white stag’s been shot?’
‘No! You mean the ancient one, the first, the one with antlers…?’
‘Him.’

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the monarch 2005

Our – Hatherleigh’s – white stag appeared a good many years ago and was spotted in various places around the parish. Great excitement and rumours abounded. A white red deer is unusual and steeped in myth and folk law. Over the years he’s grown, in stature and in legend, to become a magical and important talisman for our community. Stopping to pass the time of day with neighbours he would often crop up in conversation…
‘Oh, saw him up over at so and so’s the other morning’
‘Think he could have caught his leg, saw him limping. Keep an eye out.’
‘Haven’t seen him for a month or two, wasn’t he in your bottom meadows backalong?’
‘Got a good group of hinds with him this year.’ and so on.
Those in the know would keep an eye on him and watch his progress.

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with his hinds 2005

A few winters ago I came eyeball to eyeball with him in our copse. We were both so surprised and astonished all we could do was stare at each other for what seemed like an eternity but was probably just a split second. He was enormous and magnificent, muscled like a stallion with each antler spanning around five foot. When he recovered himself he took off, effortlessly clearing the fence and high stepping away across the moor like a white charger. I was still standing speechless as were the dogs. Now I could really see how tales of unicorns had come about.

Obviously his progeny have appeared, been noted and their progress also followed.
Last January, on my birthday, we saw a fairly large white stag in our clum meadows. It was one of those beautiful frosty mornings, the first after a long period of rain, and he was standing, looking rather muddy, though relaxed and at ease against a hedgebank catching the first of the year’s sun. Not THE one, The Ancient One, not as imposing…though impressive, if you didn’t know.

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his son, january 2007

The week before last, during a bright, full-moonlit night the herd was stalked by poachers and two deer were shot.
Those that look after the herd and cull when necessary were incensed and angry.
We’re proud and protective of our herd.

Two days ago the poachers shot The Ancient One.
Bounty hunting.

The death of a monarch.

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