Ponies to spend time in wetlands

Exmoor ponies grazing on wetlands near St Mary's Island.
Exmoor ponies grazing on wetlands near St Mary's Island.

A new tool is being used to help the environment at a tourist attraction.

Two Exmoor ponies from The Moorland Mouise Trust, set up to promote and protect the rare breed, will spend six to eight weeks at the wetlands at St Mary’s Island.

They will eat the coarse and invasive scrub and grasses, allowing finer grasses and wild flowers to flourish.

And officials from the St Mary’s Island Wetland Conservation Group are hoping they may develop a taste for New Zealand pygmyweed, an invasive species present in the ponds.

The ponies, called Martini and Lucie, are tame and must not be fed as they are there to do a job.

If the trial period proves successful the ponies will return in the autumn and stay longer.

Coun John Stirling, cabinet member for the environment, said: “We’re really looking forward to the two ponies moving onto the wetland area.”

“I’m sure families visiting the lighthouse will also love dropping by to see Martini and Lucie, too.

“Of course, as a result of the ponies grazing, there are great benefits to the environment, as well.

“On behalf of North Tyneside Council, I must thank the Conservation group and the local community for all of their hard work at St Mary’s Island, and to The Moorland Mousie Trust for bringing the ponies to the headland.”

Exmoor ponies have proved to be the best at conservation grazing as they have small feet which do less damage and they have large jaws which can manage scrub.

St Mary’s Island Wetland was created in 1997 and forms part of the St Mary’s Island Local Nature Reserve.

The conversation group, which is made up of a group of local wildlife enthusiasts, was set up in 2014 to help manage the wetland area in conjunction with North Tyneside Council.

The Conservation Group’s recent work has included the control of invasive species, the clearance of litter and significant repairs to the site fence, enabling the Exmoor ponies to be used.