Four miniature Shetland ponies are grazing in the East Marsh just below the picnic area (please see previous post for map and recommended walks, all of which pass the picnic area).
The ponies names are Benson (pictured above) and (in the picture below and going from left to right): Venus (black), Andy (light brown) and Squibby (dark brown). Benson is the ringleader (and quite a character), Venus is the only female and Andy is the youngster in the pack.
Apart from providing a lot of interest to passers-by they have also done a grand job in keeping the vegetation down over the summer!
Whilst it may possibly be tempting to feed them, please don’t! They have plenty to eat in the marsh and eating carrots, apples or (heaven forbid) bread can easily make them ill, requiring them to be returned to Miller’s Ark, from where they are on loan. Miller’s Ark Farm is based at Roke, near Odiham.
The rather barren and muddy area in the above photo is actually being restored back to heathland by a process known as scraping. This involves removing the top layer of nutrient rich soil so that heathland plants can thrive in their preferred low nutrient soils. Scraping has been carried out in other areas on the heath and has been highly successful. There will be more on this in future posts.
Vicki Jull writes:
On October 9 the miniature Shetland ponies were returned to Miller’s Ark after spending the summer at Fleet Pond. Joanna Lawrence, the Fleet Pond Ranger, and myself would like to thank everyone for keeping an eye on them as well as the Belted Galloways, Murray and Jessie (when they were on Wood Lane Heath). We will be in touch again next year to let you know any animal arrival dates so you have plenty of time to see them.
Vicki is a Volunteer Looker Coordinator, reporting back to the Rangers observations from regular walkers who check the condition of the grazing animals, whether they have enough water, what they are eating and any other points of interest.