Watch as 6 Dartmoor ponies are released on the heathland at RSPB The Lodge in Sandy

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The ponies are helping heathland conservation work at the nature reserve

Six Dartmoor ponies are making themselves at home in Sandy.

Kevin, Podkin, Pook, Tom, Meldon Princess, and Black Magic (aka Nigel) have travelled from Devon to Bedfordshire to spend their summer on the heathland at RSPB The Lodge in Sandy.

The ponies, bred on the commons of Dartmoor and at Barramoor Farm, near Bovey Tracey in Devon, are here to help heathland conservation work at The Lodge nature reserve.

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Six Dartmoor ponies are at The Lodge in Sandy for the summerSix Dartmoor ponies are at The Lodge in Sandy for the summer
Six Dartmoor ponies are at The Lodge in Sandy for the summer

They eat bramble, scrub and birch, which helps to keep these plants under control and also to keep the heathland in good condition for the wildlife that chooses to live there.

As the ponies move across the site to graze, they gently trample bracken underfoot which, combined with grazing, will help to break up dense vegetation and allow heathland specialist plants such as heather and gorse to grow.

And manure from the ponies will help invertebrates and fungi live and develop on the heathland. Dartmoor ponies often poo in concentrated areas, which will allow populations of insects to thrive, providing food for other species.

These hardy native ponies have grown up on the moorland and farms of Dartmoor and are on loan to the RSPB until early autumn.

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A heathland restoration project began at The Lodge in 2005 and the heathland has been slowly coaxed back to life by staff and volunteers through years of careful management, which has included conservation grazing.

This is a rare habitat, but is now the largest stretch of heathland in Bedfordshire.

The site now provides a haven for heathland specialist birds such as Dartford Warbler, woodlark and nightjar, as well as other species such as natterjack toads and many invertebrates.

Peter Bradley, Senior Site Manager, said: “Heathland is a habitat that is rarer than rainforests and is one of the UK’s most threatened homes for nature. It is vital that we manage it as best we can and we are thrilled to be able to welcome the Dartmoor ponies back again this year to help us do this.”

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Paul and Vicky Pearse, owners of the Dartmoor ponies said: “This is the third year that our ponies have been on loan to The Lodge nature reserve to help manage its heathland. As each year passes, it is good to hear about the continued positive impact their grazing has had in helping to keep the site healthy and attractive for wildlife.”

The ponies will be on the reserve from April until September or October this year. The exact date for when they leave will be dependent on plant growth, which in turn depends on the weather as dry, hot summers mean they run out of food sooner.

If you would like to see the ponies the best way to spot them is to walk the Buzzard Trail. Visitors are kindly reminded not to feed, touch or directly approach the semi-wild ponies when on site.

To find out more about RSPB The Lodge on Potton Road in Sandy, including opening times and visiting information, go to

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