Exmoor ponies to graze the heath at Trinity Hill

Conservation grazing will bring new life to heathland - public are asked to keep an eye on Trinity Hill's new animal residents

This summer will see grazing animals return to the heath at Trinity Hill Local Nature Reserve near Axminster, owned by East Devon District Council. A small number of Exmoor ponies will be brought onto site at the beginning of June to graze the land throughout the summer months to help restore the wildlife habitat found on the nature reserve.

Livestock has historically been an essential component of heathland management, selectively grazing the vegetation to create a variety of ecological niches.

The ponies will be kept behind electric fencing and grazed across various compartments within the reserve. These will be temporarily fenced off from the public, but have been designed so as to not interfere with or obstruct any of the existing paths. However, the public are asked to keep dogs under close control during this period to avoid any conflict with the livestock or the ground nesting birds that make Trinity Hill their home during summer.

The introduction of conservation grazing to the heathland follows some important management work carried out over the winter. Areas of the heathland were burnt to bring new life and variety to parts of the site.

‘Swaling,’ as it is traditionally known, has removed the build-up of old vegetation in areas dominated by Purple Moor grass which is suppressing the growth of other plant species and reducing the habitat quality for many heathland species. The burning and subsequent grazing of such areas will allow space for a greater diversity of flowering plants to establish and the heather to return, providing the necessary living conditions for many heathland animals.

Appealing to the public to be on the lookout while the ponies are grazing the heath, an East Devon District Council Countryside spokesperson said:

Summer is the time to go and explore this lovely local nature reserve. If you do decide to visit, please could you be our eyes and ears on the ground while the ponies are on site. If you see any issues during your visit, such as unsupervised dogs who are being a nuisance to the ponies or wildlife, please contact the Countryside team on 01395 517557 or email.