We have 25 ponies which help us maintain six fenland sites around the Broads.
The Konik and Welsh mountain ponies are discerning diners, feeding on coarse grass, rushes and smaller fine-leaved sweet vegetation but leaving the more wildlife-friendly plants and flowers. While mowing machines are useful in other ways it is not easy to achieve this kind of discrimination with them. The ponies can also graze round difficult tussocky patches which cause mowers to get stuck.
The two different breeds each have their own distinctive grazing patterns and are placed in sites where they are going to be the most effective.
Five of the 11 Koniks are kept at Hickling National Nature Reserve all year round. The remaining two Koniks and 14 Welsh mountain ponies graze five sites in the northern Broads, some of them privately owned. The wet and unsheltered nature of these sites means the ponies are moved to more friendly fields near How Hill in the winter.
Koniks are an extremely hardy primitive Polish breed used elsewhere in Europe on similar wetland habitat. They require little in the way of attention and graze a great variety of vegetation including young scrub and bark.
Our Welsh Mountain ponies were grazing species-rich fen on the Isle of Anglesey in Wales before moving to the Broads. They are small and lightweight which makes them highly suitable for wetter sites.