Spirit of Dartmoor
Visit the Outdoor Art Exhibition at Bovey Castle
Please wander the gardens of Bovey Castle Hotel and view my personally selected images, all specially printed on High Definition Aluminum Metal Print, a durable premium product – which is amazingly robust, yet elegant -weather and water-resistant, making it suited for outdoor areas, as well as indoors including bathrooms.
Outdoor Art Exhibition in partnership with Bovey Castle, showcasing my images of Dartmoor Ponies within their natural environment while telling the very important story of the benefits of Dartmoor Ponies on the Moor for the protection of Biodiversity, natural habitat and wildlife.
All artwork is available for sale in my online shop so you can bring a piece of Dartmoor to your home.
Endangered Native Pony Breed Protecting Wildlife & Biodiversity
Dartmoor’s native ponies are not just beautiful, they are an endangered Pony Breed with only 300-500 left and they are key to helping us protect the breeding sites of red listed species of birds and butterflies by reducing Molinia Caerulea (Grass) dominance and encouraging germination of Calluna vulgaris (Heather) and other native plant species in heathland vegetation in Dartmoor National Park.
The Dartmoor ponies play a vital conservation grazing role, working hard to reduce the invasive Molinia caerulea, also known as purple moor grass, which otherwise quickly takes over and smothers native Calluna vulgaris, our common heather and other native plants, a vital natural part of the moor’s unique heathland environment. By increasing the occurrence of bare ground, reduced sward surface height and the percentage occurrence of The Molina grass and increase the germination of Heather, Calluna vulgaris seedlings.
This also helps to reduce the risk of moorland fires by reducing the sward surface height with their hoof prints helping to retain moisture in the area surrounding the grass swards. Which also encourages the return of amphibians. The return of our amphibians is increasing the presence of raptors to the area. Invasive purple moor grass is a big issue for the nation’s heathland ecosystems, thanks to its dramatic negative impact on plant and animal diversity on conservation sites. Once established it quickly takes over and smothers most other plants preventing them from getting established.
A herd of Endangered Dartmoor Heritage Ponies managed by Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust are being used to reduce Molinia and improve biodiversity within a 425 hectare pony-only enclosed site at Bellever Tor in Dartmoor National Park. We have seen a dramatic improvement to the overall biodiversity and wildlife surrounding Bellever Tor.
Why does it matter...
• Britain’s wonderful heather-dominated upland heaths are of international importance for nature conservation. They support an exciting range of specialist invertebrate and bird species, but despite being a Priority Habitat listed in Section 41 of the NERC Act 2006 (JNCC 2008), upland heaths have been in decline since the 1950s.
• It’s partly down to more nitrogen being deposited, and partly because of increased rainfall. Both have led to a boom in invasive Molinia grass. Molinia is a perennial, tussock forming grass that stops native heather in its tracks. It starts off in early spring and grows fast. By late spring it out-competes heather seedlings, leaving them short of space and light. Late July sees it becomes coarse and in autumn and winter it dies back to form a dense mat that smothers other heathland plants.
• Traditional cutting and managed burning regimes damage heathers and create areas with less structural diversity.
• Cattle and ponies both like eating grasses more than they enjoy dwarf shrubs, but ponies like to eat Molinia more than sheep and cattle do, and also enjoy eating heather less than sheep and cattle.
• There’s also some evidence that horses don’t tolerate the tannins in the heather as well as other grazing animals.
• On Bellever alone the Dartmoor ponies brought about a 31-fold increase in the number of common heather seedlings and a 9% reduction in the percentage cover of Molinia grass. The ponies also reduced the average height of Molinia tussocks and had a significant effect on the percentage of vital bare ground.
• There were significantly more Calluna (Heather) seedlings on the plots grazed by the animals, as well as a significant difference in the condition of mature Heather plants, 79% of mature plants appeared healthy compared to an average of 43% in non-grazed plots.
• Return of <10 x Red & Amber Listed Bird Species.
• Increase in Reptiles and Amphibians with the ponies creating one of the best diverse habitats on Dartmoor for wildlife.