Cumberland Fell ponies are being used in favour of 4x4s to repair paths in the Lake District. Yesterday morning a team of six ponies carried 200 empty stone bags from Black Sail Hut Ennerdale, Britain’s most remote youth hostel, to Brandreth in the Western Fells. The bags will be filled with stone and airlifted to Loft Beck coast walk, for use on footpaths in need of urgent repair.
The ponies made two journeys to Brandreth over the course of the day, loaded with flat packs of 20 empty bags. They were led by experienced volunteers and National Trust Staff for the 1.8 mile journeys. “The alternative would have been to use helicopters, 4×4 vehicles, or teams attempting to carry 10 at a time,” said a spokesperson for the fixthefells project (www.fixthefell.co.uk) who organised the journey along with the National Trust (www.nationaltrust.org.uk). “This method has far less impact on the landscape and keeps traditional methods of transport alive.”
Fell ponies are a hardy breed, more than capable of the job, according to Christine Robinson from Kerbeck Stud in Lamplugh who supplied and managed the ponies. “Some of the terrain was quite difficult and the last part had a very steep gradient,” she explained. “It is great to see the National Trust using the Fell Ponies in their natural habitat to provide a solution to transporting the empty bags from A to B, and assist the footpath workers in the fixthefells project.”
The Kerbeck Fell ponies compete at shows and participate in Pony Club and Riding Club events but the National Trust is keen to use them again as an alternative to diesel. “We need to keep these fell traditions alive and I am very happy that the ponies have something meaningful to work on,” said Christine. “I think they really enjoyed it. They went at the rate of knots and were very willing.”