Picturesque ponies are set to return to a Wearside nature spot for the winter, it has been announced by wildlife bosses.
Durham Wildlife Trust’s (DWT) Exmoor ponies have begun to return to the organisation’s headquarters at Rainton Meadows near Houghton to spend the cold months, having done an excellent conservation job in recent months.
DWT brought in the ponies to graze on a number of its nature reserves because their method of grazing is good for wildlife habitats.
Their ability to graze on encroaching rank grasses and tendency to browse means that they naturally improve the species diversity of the sites they inhabit.
One of the biggest summer tasks for volunteer teams is the cutting and raking of wildflower meadows but a conservation grazing programme meant the ponies did the work, enabling volunteers to focus on other essential conservation tasks.
Durham Wildlife Trust identified eight reserves on which the ponies could graze, including sites throughout County Durham and at the trust’s two visitor centres, Low Barns near Witton-le-wear and Rainton Meadows.
Now, the ponies are returning to Rainton Meadows for the winter.
Mark Dinning, from the trust, said: “The past few months have seen the ponies based across our nature reserves, keeping grasslands in good condition.
“They have done a terrific job.”
Members of the public are being advised if they intend to go to Rainton Meadows to see the ponies, they are not domestic animals.
It is asked that visitors do not feed them as it isn’t good for their health and they may bite.
DWT’s purpose is to protect wildlife and promote nature conservation in County Durham, the city of Sunderland other areas of the North East.
Through the management of 37 Nature Reserves and a variety of species and habitat recovery projects, the trust is one of the most active environmental organisations in the region.
By acting as a focus for a variety of community groups, schools and individuals, the trust aims to engage people in the issues around nature conservation and the wider environment.
It also manages two visitor centres and campaigns on behalf of more than 8,000 members.