Sponsor a pony at Christmas (and picnic among wild flowers in summer)

PUBLISHED: 16:13 06 December 2010 | UPDATED: 18:15 20 February 2013

Sponsor a pony at Christmas (and picnic among wild flowers in summer)

Sponsor a pony at Christmas (and picnic among wild flowers in summer)

Every little girl dreams of having her own pony and at Christmas the pressure can be tough for parents to withstand, so the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust is bringing you the ideal present for anyone who is pony mad.

Every little girl dreams of having her own pony and at Christmas the pressure can be tough for parents to withstand, so the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust is bringing you the ideal present for anyone who is pony mad.



You can sponsor one of our six Exmoor ponies and in this way feel you are responsible for a pony without all the hard work and early morning starts.



No mucking out, no freezing in a cold field hoping to catch a pony, no washing off muddy boots - in fact no hard work at all - just the pleasure of knowing that for as little as 20 a year you will be helping an ancient rare breed to survive.



The Trust uses the ponies to graze precious chalk downland at its Clouts Wood and Markham Banks nature reserve near Wroughton. Without their help the tough grasses would quickly swamp all the delicate wild flowers that make this place so colourful in the summer.



Common rockrose, horseshoe vetch, spiny restharrow and wild thyme are among the many beautiful flowers that grow at Markham Banks. Imagine the pleasure of having a summer picnic here surrounded by gently bobbing flowers and the hum of insects knowing that your generosity is keeping them all alive.



Exmoors are listed as endangered on the Rare Breeds Survival Trust list but despite their precarious status they are extremely sure footed, which makes them perfect for clambering the steep undulating slopes of Markham Banks.



The Trusts ponies are called Angels Boy (who is the leader of the pack), Oscar, Merlin, Tiny, Kummel and Kaolin. All are male and 16 years old.



The Trust acquired them almost two years ago primarily to eat the Tor grass that grows on Markham Banks. This is a fast spreading coarse grass that most other animals wouldnt even sniff at. The Exmoors, having evolved to cope with harsh weather and poor vegetation, are not so fussy.



Our Exmoors arrived in the heavy snow of February 2009 and couldnt have looked more at home. In winter the Exmoor grows a double coat - a soft, woolly undercoat and a longer, water-repellent outer coat that helps keep them warm and dry - a good thing with all this frost and ice about, says Sarah Marshall, project officer for the Trusts New Life for Chalk Grasslands Project, under which Markham Banks is being managed.



The Exmoor is Britains oldest and purest breed. Usually bay or brown in colour they have light beige markings around their nose and eyes. They are the nearest thing weve got to the wild ponies that lived here when humans arrived on the scene like those you would find in cave paintings, says Paul Castle, one of the Trusts many volunteer lookers who keep an eye on the Trusts livestock around the county.



Paul, who checks the Markham Banks ponies to keep an eye out for ill health, to make sure the site is secure and that the animals have access to water, says: Although these ponies are semi-wild, they are very docile and good tempered. And because they are such a pure breed they look fantastic when you see them all together.



The ponies are just one of five breeds of Trust livestock you can sponsor to help maintain Wiltshires chalk grasslands and traditional wildflower meadows. The others are Herdwick sheep and the cattle breeds Belted Galloways, Dexter and Aberdeen Angus.



You can sponsor an animal online at Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, or contact the Trust on (01380) 725670.



Youll receive a specially designed jute bag and twice yearly newsletters informing you how your chosen animals are getting on and where to go to find the best of the seasons wildflowers.



The project is funded by Grantscape, Biffaward, the Hills Group and Cleansing Service Group. Project partners include the AONB, Natural England, RSPB and the Grasslands Trust.


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