Ponies to be the mane event once more in return to Cleadon Hills

Exmoor ponies look set make a return to Cleadon Hills after their munching mission proved a success.

Friday, 2nd December 2016, 1:48 pm
Updated Tuesday, 6th December 2016, 11:45 am
Three wild ponies have been moved 400 miles across Britain to graze in a field as part of a conservation project. See swns story SWPONY. Sisters Maggie and Meggie, along with Hairbell, were driven for six hours from the Exmoor Pony Centre in Devon to the Cleadon Hills Nature Reserve in South Tyneside. They were moved as part of a cost-effective plan for them to maintain the grass, gorse, soft rush brambles and thistles. Juliet Rogers, chairwoman of the Moorland Mousie Trust, which has provided the animals, said: ''The ponies have settled in very well. 'They are very comfortable in their new home. Their purpose is to eat the grass, gorse, soft rush brambles and thistles in the area."

The horses were first drafted in as part of a pilot to manage the grazing of the local nature reserve.

Now a South Tyneside Council committee will hear they could be brought back, after their efforts were proven to be more effective than grass cutting alone and had greater benefits for invertebrates, ground nesting birds and floral diversity.

Councillor Moira Smith.

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The trial, which ran from February to April 2015 and November 2015 to last February, saw initially three ponies and then four kept on the land.

Their grazing led to an improved vegetation composition in parts of the site and has resulted in more visitors to Cleadon Hills keen to see the ponies.

When they meet on Tuesday, members of the Place Select Committee will hear the animals will be welcomed back to graze the land later this month until Spring 2017.

A water supply will be installed on the site and welfare monitoring will be carried out.

Councillor Moira Smith.

Councillor Moira Smith, lead member for Area Management and Community Safety, said: “We are extremely pleased to hear that the trial has been a success and the grassland has shown early signs of responding to the grazing pressure, which is vital in our bid to preserve and protect the Cleadon Hills Local Nature Reserve which is a site of special scientific interest.

“Following positive public feedback from the trial we are confident that the conservation grazing scheme will continue to help in restoring the species-rich grassland as well as continue to prove popular with visitors.”

She added visitors should not feed them, as the land and also warned they can kick and bite.

Tuesday’s meeting will take place at 10am in Jarrow Town Hall’s Council chamber.