Magdalen’s Deer Park and the “Y” Tree

In my last post, I shared some images from the “inner” garden areas at Magdalen College in Oxford. Beautiful, lush late-summer borders, meticulously maintained, and so forth and so on. The friend who toured me around, however, had other parts of the grounds she wanted to show me. So we passed through those beautiful blue iron gates and out to Addison’s Walk.

The Walk is hushed and meanders along two routes. We took the one that leads to the Fellows’ Garden. En route we spied a meadow which famously houses Magdalen’s Deer Herd.

Deer Grove, Deer Park, Magdalen College, Oxford England

Deer grazing in Magdalen College's Deer Park in August.

The Deer Park or Deer Grove is home to approximately 60 deer, which graze in the meadow from mid-July to December. Here, of course, I would have cursed them roundly and muttered imprecations about the damage they can and will do to my garden. In the Park, however, they seemed positively bucolic and appropriate. (I’m sure they are never allowed inside the blue iron gate to munch on the herbaceous borders I saw). A middling-sized iron fence keeps them inside the Park, but its height wouldn’t stop them if they wanted out. On the other hand, with a life as idyllic as theirs, why should they want to leave?

Ultimately, we ended up at The Fellows Garden, where we admired an oval pond with a heron sculpture
Fellows Garden, Magdalen College

and a beautiful, hand-carved wooden bench (with an inlaid quotation) in a sinuous shape.
garden bench, Magdalen College, Fellows GardenIt was a sculpture that we saw on the way back, however, that I found the most arresting. Ten metres high, a steel tree-shaped form presides over a meadow (Bat Willow Meadow, to be precise). The sculptor, Mark Wallinger, created it as a commission to commemorate Magdalen’s 550 anniversary.

Sculpture "Y", sculpture in the garden, Magdalen College, Mark Wallinger

A view of "Y" as one enters Bat Willow Meadow

The sculpture is difficult to photograph because the polished steel is hard to distinguish from the background of the meadow’s trees, and the edges of the “tree branches” are finely wrought in their design – to evoke, the sculptor has said, the shapes of deer antlers on the College’s nearby herds.

Mark Wallinger, sculpture "Y", sculpture in the garden, Magdalen College

Y's "branches" suggest the curved horns of deer, in honor of Magdalen's Deer Herd.

The sculpture’s setting, however, is perfect – no busy “gardenesque” plantings, just simple meadow grasses and a few wooden benches here and there. A lovely spot for a picnic, or quiet conversation.

For more information about the sculpture visit Magdalen’s website or Wallinger’s “microsite” there.

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6 Comments on “Magdalen’s Deer Park and the “Y” Tree”

  1. Carolyn Mullet Says:

    So finally a way to live with the beasts!! Love the “Y” tree.

  2. Melissa Says:

    Hi Carolyn, thanks for stopping by so regularly! Yes, the deer seemed quite appealing in that particular setting – just not here.

  3. Margaret Reed Says:

    That’s the way to enjoy deer as beautiful animals!!!

  4. John Says:

    England is always amazing with grassy meadows that seems to be without effort and without weeds — and well-behaved deer to boot!

  5. Merrie Says:

    My fiance and I got engaged here. So romantic.
    Thanks for sharing


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