Dartmoor ponies are widely recognised as a key part of the culture and identity of Dartmoor. Along with cattle and sheep, the ponies play an important role in the mix of grazing animals that maintain the landscape of Dartmoor.
There is no truth to the suggestion that Natural England is trying to “replace ponies with cattle on Dartmoor”. We are quite clear that for many reasons the ponies should be a valued part of the landscape of Dartmoor long into the future. They are one of a mix of grazing animals which help improve the wildlife value of the area. Alongside the Dartmoor National Park Authority, our local team work with the Friends of the Dartmoor Hill Pony, the Dartmoor Hill Pony Association, the commoners’ associations and other interested parties to help ensure that is the case.
In trying to ensure that Dartmoor is conserved and enhanced for the future, Natural England has a keen interest in the way that ponies can help look after nature on the moor.
We have worked closely with farmers, commoners, the National Park Authority and others over many years to look after and enhance Dartmoor. Primarily this has been by developing management agreements which provide financial support to farmers and commoners to help them with their careful management of their livestock and Dartmoor’s landscape.
It is the commoners’ associations and individual agreement holders who make the detailed decisions on how agreement payments are shared and the numbers of ponies, sheep and cattle on the moor at any one time.
Grazing by both cattle and ponies can be beneficial for nature on Dartmoor. It is the overall stocking level and timing that is most important to helping nature thrive.
Natural England owns a small herd of Dartmoor ponies which do an important job helping us to manage our East Dartmoor Woods and Heaths National Nature Reserve, as well as adding greatly to the enjoyment of our visitors.