Exmoor ponies returning to the Downs

Exmoor ponies thrive on difficult terrain
Exmoor ponies thrive on difficult terrain

Exmoor ponies will return to graze on areas of the South Downs, after Eastbourne Borough Council backed the plan at its cabinet meeting this week (June 1).

The use of ponies is part of the Downland Management Plan.

This document sets out how Eastbourne Borough Council will manage the downland within the South Downs National Park up to 2022.

As well as using Exmoor ponies to graze, the plan also recommends a reduction in mowing to enhance the chalk grassland and let wild flowers flourish and the removal of grass cuttings to encourage small herbs to grow that are beneficial for bees and insects.

Fifteen Exmoor ponies from the Sussex Pony Grazing and Conservation Trust will return in November to graze in an area of downland between Beachy Head and Birling Gap.

The ponies are hardy, thriving on difficult terrain like steep slopes, and can eat varied plant life.

Steve Wallis, Eastbourne Borough Counil Cabinet Lead Member for the Environment, said, “It’s great news that the Exmoor ponies are returning to the South Downs to help bring new life to the grassland.

“Not only are they beneficial to the wildlife habitat, they are popular with residents and visitors.”

The ponies will be grazing right through into spring 2016 so there is plenty of opportunity to see and photograph them in their new temporary home.

The Exmoor pony has been given “endangered” status by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, and “threatened” status by The Livestock Conservancy.

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