Exmoor ponies escape from Northumberland Wildlife Trust's Benshaw Moor after gate left open

13.04.23 Pony Northumberland Credit: PA
Exmoor ponies are in residence at Benshaw Moor, in Northumberland. Credit: Duncan Hutt

Wild ponies trotted five miles from the wildlife reserve where they live after gates were left open by members of the public.

The Exmoor ponies, which took up residence at Benshaw Moor, in Northumberland, less than a month ago, were rescued by a local farmer after making their escape.

Northumberland Wildlife Trust said it was lucky the animals had been returned unharmed.

Duncan Hutt, the trust's director of conservation, said: "We were lucky - if the ponies had made it into nearby Harwood Forest, we would never have found them.

"How many times do we have to ask people to act responsibly on our reserves? Every year we ask people and every year people ignore us."

The ponies have free rein over the 600-acre Benshaw Moor site and are part of a conservation grazing scheme which relies on their hooves churning up the ground to create open areas for seeds to germinate.

This in turn allows plants to grow which attract a variety of birds and bees.

Exmoor's Moorland Mousie Trust provided the ponies whose grazing has been made possible by perimeter fencing funded by a private donation. Credit: Stephen Comber

The pony reserve is located to the north of the National Trust’s Wallington Estate.

Luckily, while the animals trotted five miles on the road before being rescued, there were no fatalities.

However, the incident has prompted the wildlife charity to issue its annual plea for visitors to ensure gates are closed behind them at all times.

The charity has also requested rubbish to be taken home, including bottles and disposable barbecues, as they could cause a fire.

Mr Hutt added: "It’s simple - close gates, don’t trample down fences to access cordoned off areas and take rubbish home."

Northumberland Wildlife Trust manages and protects critical species and habitats at over 60 nature reserves throughout Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland and is the largest environmental charity in the region working to safeguard native wildlife.

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