Sussex Pony Grazing Conservation Trust logo
Wildlife conservation of local downland and heathland

Our services

We offer a comprehensive and specialised grazing service, bringing together the necessary knowledge, expertise and resources to deliver hassle-free and cost-effective conservation grazing to land managers.

 

How it works

We don’t just deliver the animals! We can be involved in all aspects of the grazing scheme from advice, planning and set-up to complete and on-going care and responsibility for the welfare of the ponies on site.

The process usually begins with an initial consultation and site visit where we meet and discuss the specific conservation objectives of the site and decide upon an appropriate grazing regime (stocking density and length of grazing period). We then need to ensure that all the necessary site requirements are established. Those are; access, secure fencing, adequate shelter and water provision. Electric fencing can be provided, depending on site specifics.

Once all these are satisfied we can implement the agreed scheme.

 

What is covered?

  • Sourcing of appropriate animals
    Broadwater Warren  RSPB Broadwater Warren
  • Transportation and delivery of ponies to site
  • Daily checks of ponies
  • Call-out service in case of emergency or issues
  • Continued health care provision
  • Gathering and removal of herd
  • Full-insurance cover

                                                                                       

Benefits of using us

The main advantage of contracting us to deliver your grazing needs is that you can focus on and prioritise your conservation objectives. With sufficient planning and notice, we can tailor the grazing to your needs whilst also taking care of the welfare of our ponies. In most circumstances this works out to be a far more cost-effective way to manage grazing. You have:                             

  • Lower capital out-lay (stock and equipment)
  • No need for specialised in-house staff skills
  • No need to provide year-round care for your animals

 

If you are a land owner or manager and would like to discuss the possibility of employing our services, please do not hesitate to contact us.

 

Additional notes

Grazing of chalk grassland on the South Downs generally takes place during the October to April period. Grazing of the heathland is site dependent, either being all-year round or restricted to the summer period.

To avoid introducing additional nutrients to these nutrient-poor habitats, the ponies rarely receive additional feed. We are careful to place only a number on site that the land can support, taking desired ecological outcomes into consideration. Annual and seasonal variations in climate do mean this can vary. 

As mono-gastric animals, ponies graze for longer periods and consume more than ruminants such as cattle and sheep. Major livestock movements generally take place during the April/May and September/October periods.

Ponies are classed as a non-livestock animal so no movement restrictions apply.

 

 

 

 

The herd at Castle Hill NNR (photo © David Cuthbertson).

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Testimonials

Broadwater Warren
RSPB

Broadwater Warren nature reserve is a 450 acre heathland and woodland restoration project. The Exmoor ponies were introduced in 2012 and, after a successful summer’s grazing, returned again in 2013. The ponies help to control purple moor grass and break up dense areas of bracken, whilst avoiding the heather as it regenerates from seeds that have lain dormant for decades. The ponies also help to naturally poach pond edges, creating micro-habitats for insects and other pond-dwelling fauna and flora. They nibble back birch and help to keep areas open and sunny for the long term. Most notably the ponies have been very popular with visitors to the reserve; we have received lots of positive comments about how nice it is to see them in the Wealden landscape. Visitors come to the reserve specifically to see the ponies. We look forward to their return in 2014 and hope they will continue to be part of our heathland restoration project for many years to come.
Visit RSPB for more information.

Steve Wheatley, RSPB Weald Sites Manager.


 

Castle Hill NNR & Lullington Heath NNR
Natural England

Over the last few years, the National Nature Reserves at Castle Hill near Woodingdean and Lullington Heath, on the edge of the Friston Forest, have benefitted hugely from the indomitable Exmoors during some testing winter seasons, for both the animals and the volunteers checking them.

At Castle Hill, the chalk grassland slopes are of national and European importance for their orchid-rich wildflower communities and the diverse communities of invertebrates, dependent upon them. Key amongst the many rare species are the early spider orchid and the wart biter cricket, both of which depend upon a summer grassland structure of short turf with scattered tussocks. The Exmoors effectively ‘hoover up’ the rough, coarse grasses during the winter and prepare the slopes for spring, ensuring that the essential summer structure develops, rather than being swamped with the dead thatch from the previous year.

Lullington Heath is unique as it supports the largest surviving fragment of chalk heath in southern England. A good proportion of the Reserve is also chalk grassland with scattered scrub. Here, in a similar scenario to Castle Hill, the ponies do an excellent job, maintaining the chalk heath as well as the chalk grassland, with some scrub and gorse browsing thrown in for good measure.

We hope to keep up our winter welcome for the ponies on the Reserves, not only because they do such a good job of maintaining the habitats, but also because they look so stunning!

If you would like to find out more about the Reserves, check out the Natural England web page.

Malcolm Emery, Senior Reserves Manager.


 

 

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