Stag at Lyme Park


I visit Lyme Park in Cheshire about five times a year. The 1,400 acres of parkland pay homage to what sits majestically in the middle - Lyme Hall, a pretty Palladium pile of a stately home. Most walks end without sight of stags or deer but if you're lucky they leave leafy cover - probably looking for food. Unlike human beings there're no ugly ones and they're attractive from any angle. I rarely spot stags and doubt there many to see there. They rarely live past 15 years and often fight to the point of exhaustion or heart failure. Antlers can inflict horrendous stab wounds on foes. Recently I spotted one watching me and decided to try to paint it.

At first I saw the antlers moving sideways across the top of some bushes. I thought it might be a hawk hopping from bush to bush perhaps having seen an injured rabbit under the foliage. It was stag though and when it tilted its head and its impressive headgear moved in unison I was pinned to the spot. What a beauty - and with the sun it's back, too. It looked at me directly with casual indifference as though I was ruining its day. Bored by this non-threat or perhaps calling to its harem it roared a couple of times. To hear a stag's call here is a clip (check out its also shaking its willy) :


The stag sauntered off along the side of a stone wall and as I averted my attention to my camera it was gone. I didn't see it again. I pushed through the bushes but couldn't see how it had disappeared down the side of the wall. I wonder if it's still alive. I thought I'd try to capture it on 18" of stretched canvas so it will always be alive (so long as it doesn't mind living in the attic gathering dust.) Few paint tubes came out for this one, only greens and browns and a knob of blue for the sky. Things went smoothly though I've seen paintings of stags that make this look like the 6th-form-student triumph of averageness that it is. The pleasure is in the doing and I enjoyed labouring away over it. I've added the stone wall here to break things up a bit; too much foliage would have dulled things.


This painting will look nice in the attic next to the Starsky & Hutch videos, hula hoops and board games. However it can be yours for 18,660 - a lot but I'm afraid I need the money. I was on a long drive and thought I'd relieve the boredom by seeing if I could hold my breath through a full song. I put on Pink Floyd's Comfortably Numb and must have fainted. I crashed into Willy Whippy's Ice Cream van and have to pay him 18,660 to buy a new one.


To deter stags from your garden I read you can leave around creosote-soaked rags, diesel-soaked cloth strips, scented soap or lion dung. Better still wee in a few buckets and splash it all over the garden.