Welcoming our new friends

Durham Wildlife Trust News


Our new friends exploring their new home at Rainton Meadows (image Credit: Vivien Kent)

Yesterday proved to be a very special day for Durham Wildlife Trust with the arrival of 10 Exmoor ponies to Rainton Meadows Nature Reserve.

DWT Chair, Steve Gater, Presents Margaret and Bill Brabban with a pony naming certificate

DWT Chair, Steve Gater, Presents Margaret and Bill Brabban with a pony naming certificate.

The arrival of new friends was made possible through the success of our Pony Appeal which raised a staggering £13,855. The monies raised have enabled the Trust to acquire the ponies, to pay for their transportation from Devon, carry out preparatory work on our reserves and to purchase essential items such as halters and feed buckets etc. The additional funds raised will support an ongoing Pony Welfare Fund and will be used to establish a Pony Warden Scheme allowing us to develop and train a number of volunteer wardens who will be able to check in on the ponies ensuring that they are safe and well at all times as they carry out conservation grazing on our reserves. If you are interested in joining the Pony Warden Scheme please email Mark Dinning on mdinning@durhamwt.co.uk


The crowd awaits in anticipation…


A number of supporters were invited to yesterday’s event, presentations were made to those who named our new arrivals before Juliet Rogers from the Moorland Mousie Trust delivered a talk on Exmoor ponies and conservation grazing. Like clockwork, the ponies arrived and we watched with bated breath as the 10 young geldings gingerly stepped off the trailer before energetically exploring their new home. It quickly became clear that our new recruits were happy with their adopted, full of energy they explored their surroundings, rewarding onlookers with a beautiful and very memorable view as they galloped around the Rainton Meadows landscape.


Why Exmoor Ponies?

  • Exmoor ponies have a varied diet which changes with the seasons, given sufficient natural habitat, they do not require winter feeding. Whilst they like sweet, young grasses, they will also tackle gorse, purple moor grass, soft rush, brambles and thistles.
  • Their double-layered winter coat means that they can withstand hostile winter conditions and do not require artificial shelter.
  • Exmoor ponies are recognised as an endangered breed. They are charismatic creatures, their presence on our sites will help to raise the profile of conservation and will encourage more people to visit their local nature reserves. As a semi-feral breed, Exmoor ponies will tend to keep clear of the public making them well-suited for conservation grazing on our reserves.
  • Their ability graze on encroaching rank grasses and their tendency to browse means that they naturally improve the species diversity of the sites they inhabit.
  • Exmoor ponies have smaller hoofs than other ponies, which limits their impact on the ground. Their small, sharp feet will trample bracken and will open up swards, allowing for new growth.
  • Having our own herd of Exmoor ponies enables the Trust to deliver flexible and responsive conservation grazing on our nature reserves without having to rely on the availability and cooperation of graziers.
  • Our volunteers currently spend a lot of time cutting and raking meadows as part of reserve management, our Exmoor ponies will naturally preserve the habitat of our meadows enabling the teams of volunteers to focus on other essential conservation tasks, further improving the diversity of our countryside.

Our new friends looking very much at home in Rainton Meadows

The ponies will be based at Rainton Meadows for two to three months before being moved around our other reserves. Supporters of the Pony Appeal will be kept updated with news from the herd.

We would like to thank everyone once again for the very generous support shown towards our appeal and for welcoming these native, rare-breed ponies to the North East where they can enjoy a very fulfilled life whilst helping to conserve habitat for wildlife from the Tees to the Tyne.