This is an excerpt from a newly revised film, ‘Exmoor Ponies Guardians of the Land’ which was launched at the Exmoor Pony Society AGM on the 7th May 2023. It was very well received by the members and was introduced by the film maker, Alan Tibbitts of DVX Productions.
The concept of ‘rewilding’ has been embraced in many European countries, since the end of the 20th century, with attention soon turning to Exmoor ponies as ideal recruits.
The aim of rewilding is to turn the clock back to before humans transformed land primarily for cultivation. In many instances this involves re-establishing natural grazing systems by using limited numbers of grazing animals as close as possible, ecologically, to their wild predecessors.
One such British project is located close to the Devon/Cornwall border, about 50 miles south-west of Exmoor itself. Coombeshead is part of Upcott Grange Farm, near Launceston. 120 hectares used to be devoted to rearing sheep commercially. Then, in 2005, its agricultural use was ended so that the land could be returned to Nature.
Since then, a variety of animals have been introduced to bring about a gradual return to natural and sustainable habitats.
The pastures and woodlands are now home to a variety of animals helping with the restoration work: Exmoor ponies, Highland and Heck cattle, Water Buffalo, Iron Age pigs, Mouflon and Beaver. Others, once part of the British fauna, are being re-introduced, including wildcat, water vole and white stork.
Conservationist and Coombeshead Site Manager Tay Davies explains the project.