A herd of 11 New Forest ponies has been called in to help the conservation of one of the world’s most endangered habitats. The ponies, belonging to Ollerton builder Gavin Wagstaff, will help munch through an area of lowland heath Britain has 20% of the world’s lowland heath in 3,300-acre Sherwood Pines Forest Park, near Edwinstowe, Nottinghamshire, as part of a long-term project to restore heathland habitat there.
Like the New Forest, Sherwood Forest was once a royal hunting ground and was once mainly heathland, but it’s the first time grazing ponies have been used for the task. Their job is to eat through unwanted vegetation, including tree regeneration and thick grass, to allow heather to carpet the forest floor each autumn.
Andy Lowe of the Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust says: ‘Sheep and cattle have been used, but the big advantage of ponies is that they’ll roam far and wide, trample down the grass, and not feast on the heather.’ Forestry Commission ecologist Adrienne Bennett adds: ‘For the ponies, it’ll be a case of doing what comes naturally we’re sure they’ll feel at home.’
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