Response from Natural England to letter sent by the Dartmoor Society regarding Dartmoor Ponies

The Dartmoor Society are delighted to receive a long awaited reply from James Cross of Natural England to our Chairman’s original letter dated 27th May 2015 on the subject of “Ponies on Dartmoor and grazing calendars for agri-environment Schemes”. Sincere thanks to John Holmes for his assistance in obtaining James’s response.

James Cross’s letter is shown in its entirety below.

Natural England
Natural England Mail Hub
Block B, Whittington Road

7 July 2015

Dear Dr. Greeves

Ponies on Dartmoor and grazing calendars for agri-environment schemes

Thank you for your letter to James Cross of 27th May: he has asked me to reply on Natural England’s behalf. We have received a lot of correspondence on this issue since the item in the Western Morning News and it is encouraging that people care so much about ponies. Natural England owns a small herd of Dartmoor ponies that does an important job in helping us to manage our East Dartmoor Woods and Heaths National Nature Reserve, as well as adding greatly to the enjoyment of our visitors. We are quite clear that for many reasons the ponies should be a valued part of the landscape of Dartmoor long into the future.

Alongside the Dartmoor National Park Authority, we work with the Dartmoor Pony Society, the Friends of the Dartmoor Hill Pony, the Dartmoor Hill Pony Association, The Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust, the commoners’ associations and other interested parties to help ensure that is the case. 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.

Grazing by both cattle and ponies can be beneficial for nature on Dartmoor: the overall stocking level and timing are the most important factors in helping nature to thrive. It is the commoners’ associations and individual agreement holders who make the detailed decisions on the precise mix on ponies, sheep and cattle on the moor at any one time. However, I can assure you that there is no plan at all for Natural England to remove ponies from grazing calendars and replace them with other types of animals.

Understanding is the key to implementing effective grazing regimes so additional information is always welcome. Perhaps The Dartmoor Society could share its research through the Pony Action Group chaired by the National Park Authority? We are working with them and the Commoners Council to scope out what more research would be most useful to all interested parties. Our lead on this topic is Naomi Oakley

Yours sincerely

John Holmes
Area Manager
Devon, Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Team,
Natural England