Grazing ponies

Grazing animals have had a presence here on the Lizard since man’s earliest attempts to manage this unique landscape, and ponies have been part of that picture from the very beginning. Indeed, until the height of the tin mining industry here in Cornwall there was an indigenous breed of pony known as a ‘Goonhilly’ that could be found across the heaths and open spaces of the Lizard. Changes in industry swept away this native breed, just as later changes in agriculture swept away the centuries old local traditions of heathland and coastal grazing.

Exmoor pony

But in the past two decades these traditions have returned and once more taken centre stage in the successful management of the Lizard’s wild and special landscape.

Whilst much of the grazing is carried out by cattle, there is a vital role to be played by Natural England’s National Nature Reserve (NNR) pony herd. Several of the Lizard’s beautiful places rely on the grazing that these ponies provide to create the best conditions needed for some of the special plants and animals that can be found here.

The Lizard NNR is renowned, both nationally and internationally, for the quality and variety of its heathland and coastal habitats and the breadth of species that have made these places their home. From rare and unusual springtime plants that colour the clifftops through to the broad sweep of purple and yellow that is the heathland in its late summer glory, the Lizard is a botanist’s delight. In addition it sustains healthy populations of the enigmatic nightjar, secretive Marsh fritillary butterfly and that most Cornish of birds, the chough.

Shetland pony above Kennack. SandsIt is hardy and traditional breeds such as our Exmoor & Shetland ponies which are best suited to this special place and their grazing and trampling does so much to help our reserves thrive. Look out for them under the summer skies of Goonhilly Downs or braving a winter gale on the cliffs at Caerthillian and amid the dunes at Kennack Sands and see the wonderful work that they do for us. In return, we are obliged to do our very best for them to keep them in the peak of condition, whether this is veterinary care, regular visits by a farrier or supplementary feeding to help them through the worst of the winter weather.

Declining budgets in recent years has made it more difficult to continue with this work, but we hope that this is where you can help us by providing funds that will assist in maintaining our herds on the Lizard NNR and at our sister NNR at Goss Moor. We have chosen ponies from both our herds for you to choose from and we hope that if you find them appealing, you would be prepared to sponsor both them and their fellow ponies and help Natural England to continue this valuable work that makes such a difference to the quality of our National Nature Reserves.

Exmoor & Shetland ponies​

  Exmoor & Shetland ponies grazing at Goonhilly and cliffs at Caerthillian

There are three levels of sponsorship: Bronze (£20), Silver (£50) and Gold (£500) and anyone can sponsor an individual pony. All sponsors will receive a sponsorship certificate, information about the herds, as well as regular updates about the ponies and their NNR homes. Silver and Gold sponsors are welcome to join us on guided visits with an opportunity to meet some of our ponies. Gold sponsors can enjoy an exclusive half day 4x4 Land Rover safari across The Lizard for up to 4 people.

NNR Senior Adviser Phil Bowler says

‘The NNR pony herds are really important and help us care for the wonderful wildlife on our reserves. Through their grazing, the ponies help control the more vigorous species of plants. This enables some of our rarest wild flowers to flourish and support a variety of other animals, insects and birds.

“We are delighted to be able to offer the opportunity to sponsor our ponies as they are quite an attraction on our reserves and their presence is enjoyed by both local people and visitors alike’.

Would you consider sponsoring a pony so that we can all work together to preserve the unique beauty of this wonderful place? Does Dobbin or Kiki or Guinevere take you fancy? – take a look on our Donate website. Support the pony herd by making a donation on line at www.easydonate.org/NENG002 and follow us on twitter @NE_DCIoS #MyCornishPony

For further information contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Published: Dec 2017