On 16th October, Dru Butterfield from the Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust, began a 100 mile walk across the Moors with Sam Goodwin of Dartmoor Pony and Pack and his ponies Billy and Jasmine. "Taking a route between the four Stannary towns, where tin mined on Dartmoor was gathered, weighed and sold, the Walk retraced the steps of the ponies' past as pack animals critical to the livelihood - and ultimately the survival - of those who lived and worked on Dartmoor in centuries gone by.
There are two main purposes of the 100-mile Challenge. The first is to raise awareness of the heritage, temperament and capability of the Dartmoor pony and its historical role as a vital partner to people on Dartmoor. The second is to raise a target of £5000 in aid of the DPHT's recently announced Dartmoor Pony Conservation Grazing Research project, with Plymouth University and Dartmoor Zoo. This will aim to ensure recognition of the ponies' benefit to biodiversity, ultimately helping to secure their future on Dartmoor and across the UK.
Joining Dru and Sam for the entire walk as lead navigator, safety specialist and history adviser, as well as moral support and chief motivator, was Paul Rendell, Dartmoor guide and DPHT conservation officer.
Says Dru: "The work of the Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust is very dear to my heart. To celebrate its 10th Anniversary I wanted to find a challenge that would highlight all the good things about the ponies' courage, bravery and resilience. I never knew a pony could actually look after you, I thought it would be the other way around! But our first training walk proved that we will rely heavily on the ponies. This Challenge will test whether us humans can show similar attributes, 'dig deep' and achieve something that we will remember for ever."
For Sam it is all about doing something that should engage everyone: "When I learned that the ponies on Dartmoor have an uncertain future, I was determined to do something to help. So I decided to train some as pack ponies, to set up a business leading people across the Moor, with the ponies carrying their rucksacks or picnics. This 100 Mile Challenge is a great celebration of the ponies and the fantastic landscape they inhabit. I can't wait to get going!"
Paul Rendell knows more about Dartmoor than most - both about its history and how to walk across it safely, or cope with any dangers that the Moor can often present. Says Paul:" Dartmoor can be a challenging place for human and beast; they will have to work together to complete this challenging trek. I am really looking forward to creating partnerships in the way that people did years ago. It will be good to walk some of the ancient routes like the Tavistock to Ashburton Packhorse trail."
The Sponsored 100-mile Challenge is part of the DPHT's celebrations of its 10th Anniversary in 2015. Says Dru: "The Walk is intended to celebrate the role of the Dartmoor pony in our local history, to show many more people just what these tough, capable but gentle little ponies have achieved in the past, what their roles is on the Moor now, and how vital it is to keep them there for the future. We need to help more people to understand the challenges facing the Dartmoor pony living on Dartmoor and then to become aware of the variety of work going on that will make a difference to their survival"."
The walk ended at Dartmoor Zoo on 23rd October. Congratulations to all involved!
Find out more or donate by visiting the website.