The Pony Wood
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As the seasons change and the trees shed their leaves, things in the Pleasure Grounds become more visible. From the drive, there are two paths leading to the lake. On the Lake Walk, Rhododendron, Azalea and Magnolia fringe the path. As it rises, and just as the lake comes into view, look left, and just behind a large Rhododendron there is a stone pillar.
This area is known as the Pony Wood, and this is the memorial to a number of the family's equine friends.
The names etched in the stone read:
- 'Northern Gleam, 1950 - 1979'
- 'Naponica, 1948 - 1982'
- 'Stromo, 1926 - 1955, Errigal, 1953 - 1969 - Two much loved pony friends'
When the 7 Marquess of Londonderry died in 1949, as part of her inheritance, Lady Mairi chose four mares and a yearling from Wynyard to begin her thoroughbred stud at Mount Stewart. They were Flight of the Heron, Senatrix, Faustina, First Blush and the yearling, Ramiflora. Mount Stewart proved a perfect location, and the knowledge that Lady Mairi had gained from her parents soon brought her success.
In 1950, a bay filly was born to Flight of the Heron. She was named Northern Gleam. Flight of the Heron was named after the best selling adventure novel by DK Broster, and the first of her Jacobite trilogy. The sequel is called A Gleam in the North.
As a 3 year old, Northern Gleam won the Irish 1000 Guineas, Pretty Polly Stakes, Beresford Stakes and Blandford Stakes, becoming the top money winner in Ireland for 1953.
This resulted in an invitation to represent Europe in the Washington DC International Stakes held at Laurel Park racecourse in Maryland, USA in 1954. Until then, bringing horses from Europe to the United States was unprecedented. All foreign racehorses had their air travel, and that of their trainer and groom paid for by the organizers. Northern Gleam came in sixth. She became a brood mare at Mount Stewart, and died in 1969. Her skeleton is now part of the Ulster Museum’s collection.