NATURE reserve bosses have found a practical way to preserve land over winter.
Hetton Bogs Local Nature Reserve chiefs have acquired some Exmoor ponies to help naturally manage their site through conservation grazing.
The four semi-wild ponies arrived at the reserve this week and new gates and a fence have been put in place to provide natural paddocks for the animals.
The ponies are being loaned to Sunderland City Council by Moorland Mousie Trust as part of a successful environmental management programme used elsewhere on moors and heathlands, which use the animals as natural wardens to keep grasses under control and break up and fertilise the land.
It comes just days after the Echo revealed how ponies were being used on Cleadon Hills for the same purpose.
Coun James Blackburn, cabinet member for attractive and inclusive city, said: “The ponies are a very efficient and natural way to look after the grasslands and the presence of such beautiful creatures can only add to the attractions of one of our largest and most popular local nature reserves.
“Our countryside team will make sure they remain fit and well-fed over the winter, but we’d like to ask all our visitors to respect the fact that these ponies are semi-wild and keep themselves and their dogs away from them.”
Sunderland City Council’s Countryside Team has invited visitors and voluntary conservation groups like Friends of Hetton Bogs to keep a friendly eye on the ponies.
People are asked to report if the animals look in distress or if there is any damage to their paddocks.
Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer pony warden can contact Sunderland City Council’s Countryside Team on 561 8773 or email firstname.lastname@example.org