WILD ponies are settling in to their new home in South Tyneside.
Three Exmoor ponies were moved onto Cleadon Hill Nature Reserve on Tuesday afternoon as part of the council’s conservation grazing scheme.
After a shaky start – with a dozen protesters turning out to protest over safety and wellbeing fears – sisters Maggie and Meggie, plus Hairbell, have settled in well.
Juliet Rogers, chairwoman of the Moorland Mousie Trust, which has provided the animals, said: “The ponies have settled in very well.
“They were definitely standing up asleep when we went to check them this morning, so they’re very comfortable in their new home.
“I am quite delighted though that some of the people who were against the arrival of the ponies have since been in touch to say they will now help to keep an eye on them, which is wonderful.”
Stunning pictures of Exmoor ponies roaming on Cleadon Hills
The trial will see the beasts roaming a section of the hills until Easter, then, if all goes well, they will be brought back again in November for another few months. Their purpose is to eat the grass, gorse, soft rush brambles and thistles in the area, which will save the council cash on maintaining the area.
Ms Rogers said: “The ponies will only be eating the natural grassess for two reasons.
“The first is because we don’t want to be bringing in hay, which mean seeds could end up taking on the hills, which would affect the environment.
“Plus we don’t want the ponies to be waiting there in anticipation of someone arriving with food.
“They are very resourceful and even if it snows, they will dig through to find the grass underneath.”
Already the new guests have attracted plenty of attention.
Ms Rogers said: “When we went to check the next morning, there were people there taking pictures, and also a group which appeared to be sketching too.
“We will be visiting the site every say to make sure the ponies are OK, and we’re hoping that the rest of the public will enjoy seeing them there.”