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The Moorland Mousie Trust is planning a new £100,000 development in the heart of Exmoor to provide tourists and locals with an opportunity to interact with the ancient Exmoor breed.

The facilities on the Ashwick estate, near Winsford Hill will include an information centre for visitors, as well as stabling and training facilities for the unwanted Exmoor ponies, which the trust buys from the autumn sales each year.

“There are always a surplus of animals after the autumn sales,” explains trust founder Valerie Sherwin. “The ponies which remain unsold are bought by the trust. We domesticate them, so they are used to being handled by humans in the same way as a stud-bred weanling would be, before finding them new homes.”

Valerie believes the new centre will play a vital role in promoting the breed, which is listed on the Rare Breed Survival Trust’s “endangered” register.

“Visitors to Exmoor have few opportunities to meet the ponies at present, other than at the far end of a pair of binoculars,” explains Valerie. “The new training facilities will include a viewing gallery so people can watch the team working with the young ponies and demonstrations by older ridden ponies.

“Ultimately, we hope to set up a trekking establishment so people can experience the beauty of the Exmoor countryside from the back of an moor-bred Exmoor pony.”

The first stages of the new development have been funded by £60,000 grant from the Exmoor National Park’s sustainability panel and the trust hopes the remaining funds will be generated through fund raising and further grants.

“We have an amazing network of volunteers, without whom we simply couldn’t function,” says Valerie. “They have been helping raise funds for the project, but we are always in need of further donations.”

If you would like to make a donation to the project please send a cheque made payable to “The Moorland Mousie Trust” to The Old Barn, Moorhall, Barhill, Madeley, Ceshire, CW3 9NG. To become involved in the trust’s work contact Valerie Sherwin (tel: 01782 752247).