It looks like a troll forest straight out of The Hobbit. At any moment, you expect a small, hairy creature to emerge from the mud or from behind one of the many misshapen alder trees with their roots deep in the damp, swampy ground. In fact, the only thing you are likely to encounter here is a herd of deer or a lonely wanderer who has strayed into this little-known part of the Deer Park.
This old coppice section of woodland is part of the original forest, which dates back to the 13th century, long before Frederik III decided to make the current Deer Park a royal hunting ground in 1669.
Farmers from the nearby village of Stokkerup would fetch wood from the coppice in Dousbad Swamp for fuel and timber. Posts, poles and fences were all cut from the trees here, which are common alder. The term ‘coppice’ means that the tree is regularly cut down to the root, so new shoots form.
The trees here still bear the marks of this original pruning, visible in the overgrown ‘foot muffs’ that have spread like knots just above the roots. Over the last 400 years, the trees have been allowed to grow more freely, although the wet soil does inhibit their growth. When the king set up the Deer Park, the Stokkerup farmers were ordered to demolish their homes and move elsewhere. As compensation, they were granted a three-year tax exemption.
Photo: Søren Rud