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Last Updated: Monday, 17 November, 2003, 10:21 GMT
Rare ponies are moor's 'last hope'
Exmouth ponies
The ponies will live wild on the moorland at Longhorsley
A group of endangered ponies is being used to preserve a threatened lowland area of Northumberland.

Four Exmoor ponies are being brought in to Longhorsley Moor to eat harmful scrub, which is overgrowing and destroying the rare heath site.

The semi-wild yearling ponies are owned by the Moorland Mousie Trust, a charity set up to conserve the Exmoor and promote it as an all round family pony.

The animals have already proved themselves as good environmental grazers and are used by wildlife trusts, English Nature and the National Trust throughout Britain.

But this is the first time ponies have been used at Longhorsley Moor.

'Fragile heather'

Longhorsley Moor is the last lowland heath left in south east Northumberland.

The site has been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest by English Nature and is protected by Longhorsley Parish Council with a management agreement and a stewardship grant from the government.

A spokeswoman for the Moorland Mousie Trust said: "The fragile heather on the Longhorsley moor is under constant threats from bracken and scrub encroachment and is very sensitive to human disturbance.

"The ponies and some sheep will live wild on the moor, eating the harmful scrub, thus encouraging heather regeneration.

"For this reason the ponies must not be fed by anyone or approached by humans, they must be left to live wild and free on this fantastic site.

"In Northumberland they graze the dunes near Bamburgh, Newham Bog near Lindisfarne, and several sites for Northumberland Wildlife Trust."





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