Seven New Forest ponies have this week joined the sheep used to maintain and restore Brighton and Hove’s ancient flower rich grasslands.
Sheep were introduced by CityParks about twenty years ago on the outskirts of the city after a break of 50 years, in the hope that their grazing habits would better protect the grassland than mechanical mowing.
They were gradually introduced to more locations, including popular parks such as Wild Park and Sheepcote Valley, with the herds being looked after by volunteer shepherds, or lookerers – and now, they have been joined by the ponies.
Gill Mitchell, Chair of the Environment, Transport & Sustainability Committee, said: “I am sure the ponies will be a welcome sight on the downs and will play a useful role in helping conserve our natural heritage.”
Like the sheep, the breed of pony being used has been carefully selected for its ability to survive in all weathers and get by, and even thrive, on low quality forage. Ponies favour different plants from the sheep and will help create more variety which will benefit even more species of wildlife.
The ponies arrived at 19 Acres (the field that runs along the west of Devil’s Dyke Road just to the east of the bypass) on Monday.
As with the sheep, the animal’s daily welfare will be checked by specially trained volunteers. If you would like to help by volunteering please complete the application form on the council’s website.
The council has warned people not to feed or pet them as they are working ponies and if they become over friendly they may have to be removed.
You can keep up with their progress at the @BHSheep Twitter account.