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Conservation work has been going on at Staunton Meend in the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) for many years to eradicate bracken and restore the common to heathland. After progress with bracken bashing the land is improving, however the Staunton villagers have decided they also need the equine touch.
To this end new fencing, gates, cattle grids, and an animal pen have been installed to prepare for the new equine arrivals. These works have been funded by Gloucestershire Environmental Trust with landfill tax contributions donated by Cory Environmental. The project has also had considerable support from the Wye Valley AONB Sustainable Development Fund. The Meend is now home to six rare breed ponies from Exmoor’s Moorland Mousie Trust (MMT), who have just taken up residence.
These ponies have been used successfully on many such schemes including areas in Monmouthshire and Gloucestershire. Used to fending for themselves on wild moorland expanses the Exmoor ponies will be part of a long term conservation grazing scheme. The ponies hardy nature and ability to get tough with all kinds of harsh vegetation make them the perfect heavy brigade to tackle the bracken and brambles and reduce the amount of manual volunteer labour needed.
Local equestrienne Cheryl Hockey has been selected as the horse manager and is now in charge of the herd. Nikki Moore, Wye Valley AONB Information Officer and Juliet Rogers, both trustees of the MMT gave a presentation at a well attended meeting at Staunton Village Hall in March to interested villagers. Juliet, who has supervised several projects all over the UK, discussed the merits of using the Exmoor ponies as conservation grazing animals.