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Dartmoor ponies for nature reserve

PUBLISHED: 11:19 06 December 2008 | UPDATED: 21:57 05 July 2010

GALLOPING about on a bright winter's morning, a herd of Dartmoor ponies were yesterday released on to a coastal nature reserve to help improve the habitat for some of East Anglia's protected animal species.

GALLOPING about on a bright winter's morning, a herd of Dartmoor ponies were yesterday released on to a coastal nature reserve to help improve the habitat for some of East Anglia's protected animal species.

Twenty-seven ponies, including a six-month-old foal, were released into Dunwich Forest as part of Suffolk Wildlife's Trust's (SWT) new project to enhance the area and turn it from woodland back into lowland coastal heath.

The herd were moved from the West Country to the area, south of Southwold, and were welcomed to their new home yesterday by SWT staff and local author and journalist Simon Barnes.

They will graze the 700 acre northern section of the forest to help turn the area from conifer plantation into open woodland to improve and extend the habitat for some of Suffolk's native species, including woodlark, nightjars, green tiger beetles and barbastelle bats.

The area will be managed by SWT and the RSPB to reinstate the natural heath land - one of the UK's rarest habitats - once the existing conifer trees are felled to help birds and insects flourish.

Suffolk Wildlife Trust's reserve assistant Dayne West said: “This project will eventually transform this whole site. The area is currently a mix of Corsican pine and broad leaf woodland and over a period of about 35 or 40 years we hope to thin the trees out by not replanting and then the ponies will come into their own, transforming it into a mixed habitat with patches of open heath land among the trees.

“We'll be checking on them daily, but I'm sure they'll find this quite a comfortable place to live. There's plenty of natural food for them and lots of shelter under the trees.

“We want visitors to enjoy the ponies as much as we do. They are beautiful animals to look at and left to themselves they will be doing a great job to enhance this whole area.”

The newly-formed project area is secured with perimeter fencing, but the forest will remain accessible to the public and horse riders via gates.

A herd of eight Highland cattle have settled into their new home after recently being moved to the RSPB's Minsmere reserve at Westleton, near Blythburgh.

The cattle, which came from the RSPB's Sutton Fen reserve in Norfolk, have been brought to Minsmere to assist with efforts to recreate traditional habitat management and improve the wetland areas of the reserve for species such as bitterns, lapwings and snipe.

They will be moved around the site to maximise habitat management and will not always be on view for visitors but can currently be seen grazing near Minsmere sluice.

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