The sky’s the limit for new deer park experience

The chance to get up close to red deer, and experience life on a working farm, is on offer at a new family-friendly visitor experience now open on the Hampshire/ West Sussex border, near Petersfield.

Spanning 75 acres within the South Downs National Park, and currently home to over 200 red deer, family-run Sky Park Farm has opened its doors to a new visitor centre and farm experience.

In a phased opening, the new attraction will be offering free ‘sneak peek’ sessions on selected dates until 13th June, when a new outdoor adventure play area is set to be unveiled.

Already among the UK’s principal deer farms, a cafe and shop will follow in early July, all surrounded by lush farmland stretching down to the banks of the River Rother.

Visitors can stroll through the ‘races’ – fenced paths linking fields – where they can get close to the herds, and will also be able to picnic and walk in the parkland, explore the farm trail and even feed the deer with special food sold in the shop.

Located in West Harting, near Petersfield, Sky Park is a real working farm, providing authentic insights into life on a busy farm devoted to deer, and inspired by the days, long ago, when Harting was famed for its deer parks.

Husband and wife team Pierce and Victoria Noonan bought Sky Park in 2016 as a dilapidated 75-acre farm that had been neglected for many years, with the aim of reviving the ancient tradition of red deer in Harting.

For around 800 years, from medieval times to the 18th century, the Manor of Harting was known for its private parks containing both red, the UK’s largest wild land mammal, and fallow deer, in landscaped parkland.

Today, Sky Park Farm lies just across the road from one of the original Harting deer parks, and the remains of the banks and ditches made to enclose the deer can still be seen, while earthworks mark the site of its hunting lodge.

Now more people will be able to see the deer at close quarters, with the new visitor centre giving an insight into deer farming and modern farmland management.

Adding to the new visitor experience, the Adventure Playground will offer a specifically designed woodland wonderland for children, while The Grazing Rooms café will offer snack and meals from breakfast to tea, using locally sourced ingredients, when opened.

While entry is free for selected dates in June, visits must be pre-booked, and from 13 June, online bookable tickets – costing £6.50 for adults, and £3.50 for children, with under threes free – will include car parking, entry to the farm, deer paddocks and trail, adventure playground and picnic grounds beside the pond and river.

For full details, visit www.skyparkfarm.com.

For general tourist information about Hampshire, and for the latest updates on what’s open, see www.visit-hampshire.co.uk.