Exmoor Ponies introduced at Malham Tarn

Exmoor pony released onto Malham Tarn National Nature Reserve

Two Exmoor ponies have been released in the Yorkshire Dales to help manage plants that are threatening one of the most protected habitats in the UK.

The two Exmoor ponies have been introduced to help manage plants that are threatening one of the most protected habitats in the UK.  The Dales landscape is perhaps  more famed for its green fields, dry stone walls and large population of sheep and cattle, but the new additions will manage the land and encourage wildlife to flourish in this part of the National Park. 

The Moorland Mousie Trust has loaned two ponies to us and they have been released onto Malham Tarn Fen and Moss. The introduction is a trial, and if successful, could pave the way for a few more to be released in the future.

Habitat condition assessments were carried out last year by our rangers, working together with Natural England. We found the site to be in good condition, but agreed there was a growing concern that invasive plants could have a detrimental effect if left unchecked.

The land is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and also holds Special Area of Conservation status, meaning it is protected under law and considered among the most precious homes to wildlife in the country. 

" Our vision for managing land in the Dales follows consultation with farmers and partners over the last four years. We are working towards a more natural landscape, which does more things for more people, that works for the long term, and yet remains unmistakably the Yorkshire Dales."
- Fran Graham, ecologist in the Yorkshire Dales

The Exmoor Pony is Britain’s oldest breed of native pony and thought to be little different from the original wild ponies that colonised Britain thousands of years ago. Whilst there will only be two ponies to start with, they’ll have 43 hectares to roam and plenty of food to choose from.

Fran continues: "Our solution for Malham Tarn fen meant reviewing a number of options, but we decided on Exmoor ponies as the best solution to help with our conservation management of the site. They are hardy creatures well adapted to wetland sites and can graze throughout the year. They will selectively favour species that we need to manage (common reed and willow) on the fen and moorland of the reserve, meaning that the habitats of European importance on the site will flourish, thus benefitting insects, invertebrates and birds nesting in the area too."

Exmoor pony released onto Malham Tarn National Nature Reserve
Exmoor pony released onto Malham Tarn National Nature Reserve
Exmoor pony released onto Malham Tarn National Nature Reserve

Juliet Rogers, of the Moorland Mousie Trust, which provided the Exmoor ponies, says “the breed is ideally suited for conservation grazing, as the ponies are tough, low maintenance, and cope well with harsh weather.  We are delighted to be partnering with the National Trust at a great site like Malham Tarn National Nature Reserve which is perfect for Exmoor ponies and will show how good they are as conservation grazers. The two coming to this site are handled but not over friendly so will be able to live on the land with minimal need for human contact.”

Exmoor ponies are new to this part of the Yorkshire Dales, but they’re not as an uncommon feature as you might think in the north of England. They have been successfully introduced on the  outskirts of York, and in Northumberland, at Askham Bogg, Druridge Bay and Bakethin reservoir at Kielder.  The ponies will be roaming at Malham will be monitoried closely by our rangers onsite and with tracking.

Later this summer there will be two free informal guided walks around the boardwalk on Malham Tarn National Nature Reserve. taking place on Tuesday 30 July at 11am - 12pm and 2-3pm, these walks will be led by Juliet Rogers of the Moorland Mousie Trust and Fran Graham ecologist for the National Trust. They'll talk about conservation grazing of the fen and lowland raised bog with Exmoor Ponies. Booking essential, tel: 01729 830416 for more details.