Cleadon Hills ponies return for their winter stay at nature reserve
The Cleadon Hills ponies are back for the winter.
The Exmoors will be spending their sixth cold season in a row grazing at the nature reserve and remain there until Easter, with South Tyneside Council expecting their return visit to be popular with families taking a walk.
The hardy breed will help manage the land by roaming and grazing, encouraging floral diversity and creating a habitat which helps invertebrates and ground nesting birds.
Walkers are asked to watch them from a safe distance to ensure the ponies are kept safe.
Dog walkers are also asked to keep dogs under control and away from the ponies.
Councillor Joan Atkinson, lead member for area management and community safety, said: “We are delighted to see the return of the ponies.
"They always prove to be a huge hit with visitors over the winter period and have become a welcome addition to what is a stunning landscape at any time of the year.
“We would like to remind people visiting this winter that it is important that they adhere to the signage in place and do not feed the ponies.
"Feeding them will not only detract them from doing their job of eating the vegetation but cause them to approach people for food and become a nuisance.
"Any food given could also make them seriously ill.
“Cleadon Hills is a beautiful place with room for everyone, ponies and people alike.
"The ponies can still be enjoyed as they graze the land, but preferably from a distance.”
Councillor Atkinson added: “We would like to reassure people that the ponies get plenty of food from the land, even when it is covered in snow.
"The ponies are a hardy native breed with thick winter coats and are equipped to break through snow for food so that no supplementary feeding is necessary.
"As they can tackle a wide range of vegetation and conditions, they are the ideal breed for conservation grazing.”
Cleadon Hills Local Nature Reserve is a site of special scientific interest (SSSI).
Exmoor ponies were introduced on the site in 2015 as part of a conservation grazing scheme to help preserve and protect the species-rich grassland for future generations to enjoy and are already set to return next winter.