The Broads Authority has moved their Welsh ponies to Sharps Street as part of their winter grazing programme. The ponies play a vital role in the conservation management of fen habitat and following a summer of sympathetically grazing marshes at How Hill, Snipe Marsh and Decoy Carr they were ready to be moved to a restricted grazing programme to ensure they are kept healthy over the winter months.
There are 23 ponies in total which are owned by the Broads Authority and they are a mixture of the Polish native breed the Konik pony and the British native, Welsh Mountain pony. Their role in the Broads National Park is to graze the sensitive fenland as their approach to grazing is highly selective. A preference for reed, rush and sedge over broad-leaved flowering plants means that those vital botanical species such as the milk-parsley (upon which the iconic swallowtail butterfly is dependant) are allowed to thrive as those more invasive species that would otherwise overpower such plants are managed.
Sue Stephenson, The Broads Authority’s Environment and Design Supervisor, said of the ponies,
“The ponies do a wonderful job of managing wetland areas in the Broads. The ‘mosaic effect’ created by their grazing patterns does a more natural job of managing these sensitive environments than human intervention ever would, and it’s great to see them living out in the Broads particularly those among the herd who are rescue ponies.”
The Fen landscape was once maintained for human purposes, with people harvesting the reeds and sedge for the purposes of thatch and animal bedding. Now the ponies contribute to maintaining the environmental balance.
The ponies will remain in their new grazing for the winter months until they are ready to return to those areas in need of their specialist attention in the spring. They have become a much loved and vital resident of the Broads National Park.
Monday 13 November 2017