EPICENTRE - the newsletter for Exmoor Ponies in Conservation

Exmoor Ponies in Conservation Newsletter

Issue 1 Article 10

CASTERN WOOD EXMOORS

It is now over a year since our small herd of Exmoor ponies was introduced at Castern Wood (Manifold Valley) to tackle some of the seemingly endless problems at the reserve. The problem a Castern was that the grassland on the lower slopes had gradually become invaded by hawthorn scrub and bramble. The problem appeared to be self-perpetuating and was further exacerbated be the huge numbers of flies which congregated on the lower pastures during the summer months . This resulted in very unhappy sheep and volunteers!

Autumn came and volunteer working parties resumed, usually to cut back the summer's regrowth. By this time the regular volunteers were becoming very disheartened, clearing the same area they had cleared only the year before. An alternative solution to the problem needed to be found. It was with this in mind that our herd of hardy Exmoor ponies was introduced to the site. As with the Ark, the animals arrived two by two and by the end of the month four ponies were grazing on the reserve. With the discovery that our four ponies were soon to become five, their movement to the lower pasture was once more delayed. However once the foal arrived and settled down their owner was left with the difficult task of persuading five wild ponies into a fairly small enclosure at the bottom of a steep valley.

The ponies have now been grazing our 'problem area' since November and it is already possible to see the huge difference they have made. They have grazed off the rank vegetation from last year and even browsed some areas of bramble! Hopefully, between us we are now on the way to having the problems at Castern licked, (or perhaps that should be nibbled!)

Herd owned by Val Sherwin. Background courtesy of Helen Gee. Reserve Manager. Staffordshire Wildlife Trust.