A DARTMOOR pony charity has sold a number of farmers’ ponies for grazing in Norfolk as part of a conservation project.
Sixteen Dartmoor ponies — geldings and fillies — are settling into their new homes at Hockwold Heath and Cranwich Camp in Norfolk as part of an ongoing Norfolk Wildlife Trust (NWT) conservation project, funded by Biffa Award to restore grassland habitats on the heath land. In addition, four mares have arrived to be conservation grazers at Silverlake in Dorchester, Dorset, as part of a major landscape and biodiversity develop-ment project to turn old quarry works into homes for people and wildlife, being run by Habitat First.
The selection, handling and transport of all the ponies was provided and organised by the Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust (DPHT) as part of its on-going work to support the Dartmoor pony on Dartmoor by seeking good homes for the ponies and ensuring a realistic income for the pony keepers who breed them.
This brings the total number of Dartmoor ponies owned and managed by Norfolk Wildlife Trust to 170 — thought to be the biggest collection of Dartmoor ponies helping to manage any landscape outside of Devon.
The ponies arrived in Norfolk from Dartmoor in early April, with ten going to Hockwold and six to Cranwich Camp. There is now a herd of 51 ponies at Hockwold and 15 in total at Cranwich Camp.
John Milton, head of nature reserves for Norfolk Wildlife Trust, said: ‘We are delighted to have purchased some more ponies from Dartmoor and we are really pleased to see them settling in so well. We have 66 ponies grazing various sites in Breckland, including Weeting and Hockwold heaths as well as Cranwich Camp. They are perfectly suited to grazing these sites, which are similar to the environment they come from on Dartmoor.
‘Ponies are a vital conservation manage-ment tool in these areas as they are well adapted to grazing sites with mixtures of rank grassland, wetland, gorse cover and where the public may walk their dogs. As well as providing an important role in conservation grazing, NWT welcomes the oppor-tunity to help protect the future of the Dartmoor pony. The NWT herd continues to grow, forming a significant herd of bloodlines for the preservation of this valuable, British, native breed outside Dart-moor.’
Dartmoor ponies are an endangered breed. DHPT said NWT is helping to maintain the viability of this native pony by buying suitable animals that have been bred on Dartmoor. Dartmoor ponies are particularly good for grazing heath land as they are hardy and can remain outside all year. They are used to grazing rough grassland and coarse vegetation and help by reducing overgrown vegetation when grazing, so that more specialist heath land plants can survive.
Dru Butterfield, of the DPHT, said: ‘We are extremely pleased to supply NWT and Silverlake with good quality Dartmoor ponies for its conservation grazing projects and thereby supporting our Dartmoor farmers who breed them. Through initiatives like these, we are meeting our aims to add value to moorland-bred Dartmoors and help ensure their long-term future as one of our most treasured native breeds.’