COVERING 6,000 acres, including the Wychwood forest, Cornbury Park includes some of the most ancient forest in Britain.

The park, with its mix of woodland, lakes and parkland, is a protected environment for native wildlife, creating a unique habitat in one of the few private forests in England.

Originally a royal hunting lodge, the park, near Charlbury, combines a variety of enterprises from commercial office space for small and medium-sized businesses to residential house rentals.

It is also home to deer who are free to roam over 450 acres of enclosed parkland which is run as wild as possible. The deer are reared in one of the most natural environments possible, while also giving the estate a degree of control of their management.

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This gives the customer the opportunity to purchase meat of guaranteed age and consistency with excellent conformation, something which can’t be achieved with wild deer.

Tom Marshall, Cornbury Deer Manager says: “Wild deer across the estate are culled to an appropriate level which is acceptable to both forestry and farm enterprises.

“Our job isn’t just to look after the deer but to ensure there is as little damage as possible to the flora and fauna in the forest, crops and young trees as well as reducing local road traffic accidents.

“With venison as popular as it is now, we are trying to offer customers, butchers and restaurants a product which is basically premium wild so it’s from an enclosed park where they live as naturally as possible.”

Beyond the enclosed parkland is woodland full of wild game which live in the natural forest. This means their diet is completely natural and gives the meat its distinctive taste.

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Maintaining the forest is a full-time job for the forestry team which cuts back old or dying trees to allow light into the forest, so that new growth can occur.

The problem for anything new that grows in such a thick forest is the wildlife that lives in that habitat eats it all as there is very little else for them, particularly at this time of year when there are little crops in the ground.

Cornbury is home to four types of deer: muntjac, roe, fallow and sika.

Every year the estate is visited by the Forestry Commission which counts of the deer population and issues a cull target. This is then managed by a syndicate which hunts the deer around the forest.

One of the main benefits of eating game meat is that it is one of the healthiest meats available, very low in fat and cholesterol. As the animal is wild and free to roam the park, they don’t store as much fat so are very lean and even lower in fat than chicken.

The meat is low in calories, a valuable source of essential Omega 3 acids, low in carbohydrates and cholesterol and is proven to be good for your heart and offers twice as much iron as beef or lamb.

About 20 minutes away from the Cornbury estate is The Bell Inn in Langford which, before temporarily closing its doors for the lockdown, offered a number of wild meat options.

Directors Peter Creed and Tom Noest are huge fans of game.

Peter says: “Venison is a really lean meat, naturally low in fat and high in protein. We have noticed how popular it is on our menu here and have found that people rarely if ever eat venison, or any game, at home.

“That’s partly because it isn’t widely available but also because people are not confident cooking it. We use it as an alternative to other red meat on our menu to support our local deer farmer at Cornbury, and to try and encourage people to understand and feel confident to cook and eat more wild meat.

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“The options we offer on our menu are becoming more popular with our customers looking to try an alternative healthy option. The flavour you can produce from a piece of venison will top any steak.”

The Bell Inn offers anything from Cornbury Park Venison Scrumpet, Game Faggots with Swede and Carrot Mash, Confit Rabbit Leg with Bacon and Gem Lettuce and Cornbury Park Venison with Celeriac and Red Currant Jelly. The dishes change monthly according to what is in season and available with the local farmers. Peter and Tom also host feasts alongside The Game and Wild Life Conservation Trust to showcase how wonderful wild game is and how diverse a menu can be when you use the whole animal.

The wild game industry plays a fundamental role in managing populations of game; without the work of estates and the game industry, populations would increase to unsustainable levels. This active management has a positive effects on the ecology of our natural landscape. There is a huge amount of conservation work and management undertaken to ensure the park produces healthy and sustainable game. The management of deer ensures woodlands including ancient ones are not destroyed or damaged.

Once it is again open for business, Cornbury will be launching a new events area called Rangers Lawn for weddings and events. There will also be an option to order a whole deer for your feast so you can really be part of the estate culture.

The venison season runs from August to January. At the end of the coming season in 2021, the estate and The Bell Inn will host a ‘nose to tail’ venison dinner at Cornbury with feasting under canvas.

In the meantime, you can buy Cornbury Park venison from Denshams Butchers in Witney High Street, which is still open six days a week. Go to