For a number of years, Garsons has been honoured to welcome beautiful reindeer into our family for the month leading up to Christmas.
In between their visits to Garsons, the reindeer, which were saved from culls in Norway and Sweden, are looked after by one of Britain’s leading experts, who in turn works with a specialist reindeer vet to ensure they lead happy and healthy lives.
“We personally visit the animals at their rescue home in Berkshire through the year, and have taken great pleasure in watching them grow into such glorious creatures,” says Ben Thompson, Garsons director. “The reindeer live year-round in a herd of 18 and enjoy a specialist diet which ensures they receive just what they need to grow and develop.”
Riverways Farm reindeer are cared for to extremely high standards in accordance with all Animal Health and DEFRA regulations. Riverways has just received “Higher Standards” 5-star rating under its new Animal Activity License.
Phil Endsor, a highly experienced reindeer handler and trainer known as The Reindeer Whisperer, helps Riverways Farm to look after this small herd throughout the year, ensuring they receive the very best husbandry care, attention and a carefully balanced diet.
“The reindeer roam freely across a 10-acre site and are in excellent health, and fully vaccinated,” says Phil. “They are incredibly happy, their coats shine, they are the perfect weight for their respective ages and sport strong antler sets.”
Garsons Esher is delighted that for the seventh year Storm will be returning. Now aged ten, generally older than these amazing animals reach in the wild, Storm will be joined by Iceberg, a new member of the Riverways Farm herd, also rescued from the culls.
Garsons Titchfield, meanwhile, is honoured to welcome Frosty, aged eight, who has also stayed with us several times before, and Glacier, a seven-year-old who has been to our Esher site in the past and whose white feet have earnt him the nickname `Twinkletoes’.
Months of careful planning have gone into preparing for the special guests, from sending 'reindeer helpers' for training and familiarisation at the reindeer's home farm, to building their bespoke home whilst living with us.
Our reindeer helpers will be responsible for the animals' welfare throughout their stay at the family-run garden centre, including taking them for daily walks, ensuring they have plenty of the right food and making them comfortable.
“Our priority is always to make sure that these majestic creatures are carefully looked after. A lot of work goes into giving them plenty of exercise, the right nutrients and making sure they have lots of space to move around so that they can take time away from the public if they want to.” says Ben Thompson, Garsons director.
Visitors to Garsons will be able to see and learn about these magical creatures at Garsons Titchfield from Saturday, November 23 and at Garsons Esher from Saturday, November 30. The reindeer will stay at both our sites until midday Christmas Eve.
While there is no charge to visit the reindeer at Garsons, this annual tradition raises thousands of pounds for Garsons charities of the year, Harrison’s Fund – a Surrey-based children’s charity raising funds for research into Duchenne, a rare and fatal neuromuscular condition – and The Breast Cancer Haven in Titchfield.
1. Where are they from?
The reindeer live in a small herd on a farm in Lapland (Reading). Most of the year they live out in the fields except for appearances such as this to help raise money for charity and educate the public.
2. Shouldn’t they be out in the wild?
Reindeer are not truly wild animals – in Europe they are domesticated or semi domesticated and kept in large herds, where they are rounded up once a year and sold for fur and meat.
3. Do they stay in the pen all day?
Our reindeer are walked every morning and given time to graze on grass and leaves.
4. Where do they go at night?
The Reindeer stay in their enclosure at night. In their permanent home they live out in a field with a shelter, as they do not require indoor or enclosed accommodation – in fact most of the time they will not use it and prefer to sleep in the open.
5. Don’t they get cold?
No! Their natural habitat is much, much colder than Garsons could ever get! They are perfectly comfortable down to minus 40.
6. Why are they breathing hard?
Reindeer will often lie-down after eating and will breathe heavier as they digest their food.
7. What do they eat?
The reindeer pellet we feed them contains all the nutrients they require – it is based on compressed hay and grass. This is their normal winter food, to supplement natural grazing.
8. Because they have antlers does that mean they are male?
No, both male and female reindeer have antlers. The ones here are male, as they tend to be calmer than females.
9. Do they drop their antlers?
Yes, the antlers are normally dropped around January time – earlier if the weather is mild – and then regrown every year. Each time they grow they will be larger, with more points.
10. Will they bite me?
No! Reindeer have no top teeth at the front so are unable to bite – plus they are very placid animals that are very relaxed around people.