A GROUP of hardy ponies have won a prestigious conservation award for their unique work in keeping land in the Moors National Park under control.

While the North York Moors may be over 400 miles from the traditional home of Exmoor Ponies, the tough rare breed have proved their worth in the North York Moors National Park.

The Yorkshire Exmoor ponies Trust has been awarded £500 for their devotion in employing the ponies to graze areas of the park which sheep and cows are not too keen to tackle. The national Park authority along with the North Yorkshire Moors Association were so impressed by the work they’ve done they handed them a biennial Conservation Award.

The charity was set up 14 years ago in Yorkshire to preserve the rare breed and use their abilities to maintain heath and moorland, they have 18 ponies in total who particularly work on preserved areas such as the North York Moors, the Howardian Hills and the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Tim Chadwick, Chairman of the Moors Association said: "The ponies are used for conservation grazing which enables wildlife to flourish and helps maintain nature reserves. The charity is run entirely by volunteers and the award will help to fund the transporting of the ponies to areas which need to be grazed and help the preservation of this rare native breed. They have been doing an amazing job."

Susanna Baker of the Yorkshire Exmoor Pony trust said the award is a real boost for the charity. She added:“While the ponies are happy to work for nothing, there are costs involved. They are at Sutton Bank and Runswick Bay in the Park at the moment The thing about Exmoor's is they are very hardy and munch their way through tons of vegetation, but they are selective grazers, they don’t pull, they nibble which is very good for biodiversity.

"At the moment we don’t have a constant base so we need to find new places for them, and it is time consuming, so to win the National Park award is brilliant.

“Most of the sites we graze are not in public areas and the ponies are only rarely seen, we have a lot of volunteers who help look after them, but this is a good chance for people to find out about the really essential work they are doing."