Gardens of Earthly Delight: The History of Deer Parks by John Fletcher - review by Tim Richardson

Tim Richardson

Stag Parties

Gardens of Earthly Delight: The History of Deer Parks


Windgather Press 296pp £25 order from our bookshop

You know you are not reading a normal history of deer parks when you get to Chapter Eight and find it entitled, 'Flowers of the High Medieval: How Fallow Deer Came to Britain from the Paradise Gardens, the Arabic Origins of Ornamental Landscape, and Flirtation'. Here is a thrillingly polymathic gambol through the knee-high grass of the English deer park from an academic veterinarian who has made the subject his life's work while also being able to quote convincingly everyone from Gaston Bachelard and Jean Dubuffet to Italo Calvino and William Wordsworth.

The first of several received ideas John Fletcher debunks is that deer were considered primarily as livestock and that deer parks functioned, in effect, as deer farms. No, he says: deer were never just livestock, and venison was never just another meat. Since the eleventh century, and the

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