FOOT-and-mouth restrictions came to an end at Tatton Park yesterday when its 600-strong deer herd was allowed to roam the estate for the first time in nine months.
The red and fallow deer were released from enclosures built last April to create buffer zones between animals and public.
Yesterday park rangers tempted the deer from their 300-acre sanctuary with the aid of a trailer-load of carrots.
Descendants of a medieval herd introduced by Royal Charter in the reign of Edward I, the deer could have been released in early December.
But due to the herd's priceless lineage, Tatton managers delayed their release for as long as possible to eliminate all possible risk.
The release of the deer marks the end of a crisis which, at its worst, forced Tatton Park to close for two months at Easter, foregoing £136,000 income. Tatton Park manager, Tim Birtles, said the estate had survived one of the most challenging years in its history while managing to keep financially buoyant.
Due to the success of events such as the Royal Horticultural Flower Show, the 10th Halle Orchestra concert and the refurbished Japanese gardens, Tatton had had an excellent year in terms of visitor numbers. He claimed if foot-and-mouth had not hit Cheshire, the estate could have broken even for the first time in years.
He added: "The deer are an integral part of Tatton known and loved by countless thousands of visitors all over the world.
"Their loss would have been unthinkable.
"For this reason we have probably been ultra- cautious and delayed their release as long as possible."