The frequent occurrence of gales and the odd storm force winds have kept us on our toes this winter with regard to two of the three groups of Exmoor ponies on the coast. These two herds are contained only by electric fencing and the strong winds have put a great deal of strain on these fences. Due diligence and also being proactive have paid off, with failures being kept to a bare minimum.
Have noticed yet again how hardy and resilient our Exmoor ponies are. I happened to observe a group of the much-vaunted Konik (Konik Polski) ponies grazing on purple moor-grass (Molinia) on another heathland area in SE England. The overall grazing conditions were very similar to what three groups of our ponies are currently grazing; the body condition between the two was very noticeable. There could be admittedly other factors at work, but I for one put my money without a hint of doubt on good old British stock!
On a cool but beautifully sunny Thursday (25th), we gathered in Herd 5 which has been carrying out grazing for a month not far from the summit of Beachy Head. With help from volunteer Laurence and Eastbourne Borough Council’s two estate workers, we very quickly had all 15 ponies gathered and corralled and by early afternoon, all transported off to their next job of work and all the electric fencing taken up.
The only glitch was a failure on my part with the first load, to ‘read’ correctly the clay-with-flint ground conditions at Gayles when the truck, trailer and three ponies forward motion abruptly stopped and sideways motion began! After letting the ponies off and much pondering, I made a sharp sideways turn and went downhill – a rather a nervous moment!
Their new place of work is a return to the National Trust’s recent acquisition of Gayles Farm in the vicinity of the Seven Sisters cliffs. This is a fairly extensive area of chalk grassland where sheep grazing over the past two decades have failed to control the relentless spread of tor grass across these floristically bountiful slopes. This is likely to be a long-term collaboration with the National Trust.