Cantering forward with countryside conservation

Dartmoor ponies enjoy the sunshine © Mike Ingram

Dartmoor ponies enjoy the sunshine

The National Trust English Riviera ranger team are the proud owners of a group of nine pedigree Dartmoor ponies who help the team with their countryside management on the cliffs around the property. Tim Bumby, the Head Ranger, explains the project and the impact that grazing these ponies has on the conservation of this area.

Location, location, location

On the cliffs between Newfoundland Cove, the most westerly point of the Trust’s English Riviera property, stretching all the way round to Scabbacombe beach nine, pedigree Dartmoor ponies are being grazed. They don’t have access to the whole area all the time, instead they are moved around this area depending on grass growth, time of year and other management considerations. One thing that is consistent is that they will always have a sea view.

Grazing helps conservation

The ponies were introduced to follow on from the scrub clearance work that the ranger team has previously undertaken. The ponies will graze off the newly grown scrub allowing the more delicate grasses and flowers a chance to re-establish themselves in these areas. The ponies also help the scrub clearance by using their size to break up thicker areas of grass and scrub that are very difficult for the rangers to access.

Ponies have holidays too

The Ponies live outside 364 days a year but they aren't kept on our land all year round - in the winter they have a holiday to Dawlish Warren national nature reserve where they are used to graze the sand dunes managed by Teignbridge District Council. These ponies are by no means left to graze untended - the ranger team check on them daily and they have their feet trimmed one to two times a year. During the months when the ponies are on our land they can often be seen from the South Devon coast path, which can be accessed via the gate at the bottom of Coleton Fishacre’s garden. Look out for them next time you visit

Future plans

Using ponies to control the scrub appears to be very successful, and the rangers plan to increase the herd size in the future. Another factor that will increase the success of conservation grazing of this area is that a tenant farmer is now grazing the cliffs with hebridean sheep.