A small herd of four new Fell ponies have joined our team here at Haweswater, as part of our conservation grazing and regenerative farming operation here in the Eastern Lake District.
The four ponies named Gus, Tommy, Dan and Stanley have been purchased from nearby, well-known Cumbrian fell pony breeders – Drybarrows Fell Ponies and Askham Gate Fell Ponies. They have been chosen as they are a native breed to the Cumbrian fells and are very hardy to the upland weather and terrain.
We’re so excited to have these ponies join our team. Along with our mixed herd of 35 Belted Galloway and Highland cattle, and our 300 Cheviot sheep, the ponies are part of our conservation grazing and regenerative farming operation at Haweswater. They will be used to help graze the more dominant, course vegetation such as rushes, and allow through delicate, less-competitive plants like devil’s bit scabious, which is the food plant for the rare marsh fritillary butterfly, an insect we hope will colonise the meadows here in the coming years.
The ponies and cattle help restore the landscape around Haweswater. When grazed in low numbers, these heavy-footed animals are emulating the wild cattle and horses that would have once roamed this country. They trample bracken allowing trees to grow through and they help to disperse seeds. These animals also create areas of bare ground which allows wildflowers to grow through and insects feed on their dung, which in turn provide food for birds and mammals.
At Haweswater, we’re working in partnership with United Utilities who own the site, as much of the work to restore the uplands for wildlife and people, also benefits drinking water quality. Together, we have planted thousands of trees, alongside other important habitat work, such as putting the bends back into Swindale Beck and blanket bog restoration. Conservation grazing is an important element of this work. All of these measures lead to increased carbon storage, reduce the risk of downstream flooding by slowing the flow of water off the fells, naturally purify the water for drinking, benefit a wide range of special wildlife and enhance the natural landscape for visitors.
To find out more about our vision for landscape restoration and regenerative farming at Haweswater here.
– Blog by Annabel Rushton, RSPB Visitor Experience Manager