Managing a significant and important site
In March 2020 Fiona Freshney Dartmoor Moorland Bird Advisor and Dru Butterfield for DPHT wrote a five year management plan for the Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust.
The plan to manage 450 ha of moorland was approved by Dartmoor National Park and English Heritage Archaeologists, Forestry England and Natural England and is now part of the DPHT’s annual rolling Higher Level Stewardship Agreement with a biannual review.
The DPHT is working with academics and students at the University of Plymouth, undertaking a pony grazing research project at Bellever. The project aims to assess the benefits of ponies as conservation grazers in controlling Molinia within heathland habitats, using salt licks as a means of focusing their grazing.
Salt licks are hung on posts (along with ‘control posts’ with no licks). Results so far are promising, with ponies attracted to the salt licks (and associated posts) and clearly making more use of the less palatable Lakehead Hill section of the site than previously, promoting shorter swards, species diversity and creating conditions suitable for heather regeneration.
The intention is to continue with the research project over the next 2/3 years to see if further improvement in habitat can be gained through targeted pony grazing, with the continued involvement of the University of Plymouth. For more information see the DPHT’s article in British Wildlife Volume 31, 3, February 2020 and Conservation Land Management Autumn 2020 Vol 18 No 3.
Bellever and Lakehead are recognised as having both high biodiversity value and significant archaeological interest, while also offering valuable educational access.