A document prepared on behalf of a British pony breed was posted on a Fell Pony Facebook page in November 2018. The suggestion was made that we need to create something similar for the Fell Pony. (to read more about the other breed’s document, click here.) In order to mimic the the other breed’s document, we need a higher level plan on which to base it. I’m not aware of such a plan existing, and I would be ecstatic to find out I’m wrong. In the meantime, I’m laying out here an outline of what I think needs to be in that plan so that mimicking the other breed’s document is possible.
Any plan like this, though, is relatively meaningless without people wanting to implement it. The Fell Pony breed relies almost entirely upon volunteers for its stewardship. Bits and pieces of the items in this draft plan have been mentioned, suggested, and advocated for by people in the Fell Pony community already (to whom I’m grateful). Yet I’m not aware of a publicly available comprehensive plan that has support, as evidenced by people working on it and, most importantly, that has progress on the plan being recorded publicly. I sincerely hope I’m wrong, and someone can correct my misunderstanding.
So many things point to the importance of this moment in time as being crucial to the future of our breed (and these are just the things I see from across the pond). There is increasing scrutiny of stewardship schemes. In 2017, the Lake District National Park was granted World Heritage Site status based on characteristics favorable to keeping Fell Ponies on the fells. Brexit will undoubtedly influence many things impacting on Fell Ponies. There is increasing interest in using ponies for conservation grazing. The breed generally is increasing its visibility throughout its native country thanks to the work of many in many different spheres. And in my opinion, that the Potters and the Greenholme herd are going through the legal difficulties that they are is a public relations disaster for our breed community that needs to be faced up to.
There are many in Cumbria who believe the future of the Fell Pony on the fell is doomed. They may be right. But there are others who believe that until there are no longer Fell Ponies on the fell, there is hope. This draft plan relies on that second group of people who believe our breed has a future, and, hopefully, are willing to work together in that direction.
The Fells on the Fells Action Plan has two main parts: 1) Priorities and Actions, and 2) Supporting information.
Part 1: Fells on the Fells Action Plan: Priorities – with a start on actions
Subtitle: working to ensure the future of the Fell Pony on the uplands of its historic range
· Celebrate and support both long-time and new upland stewards of Fell Ponies. Note this says stewards, not breeders. Many stewards only breed occasionally and some may not have registered their stock. This also says upland, not fell, recognizing that some important stewards of these ponies may not have traditional fell ground. Note also that support may mean helping stewards work with other common land users in new and different ways towards the long-term goal of a future for the Fell on the fell.
Encourage and support people newly interested in stewarding ponies on the uplands.
Identify available fell rights that could be utilized for Fell Ponies and make their availability known.
Increase the profile of the Fell Pony amongst upland stakeholders
Integrate the Fell Pony into the Lake District National Park World Heritage site
Maintain a positive, inclusive approach to achieving the goal of keeping Fells on the fells.
Part 2: Supporting Information
1. Executive Summary
Fell Ponies have roamed the northern hills of England and the border region for centuries. They have traditionally been bred on the common lands (fells and moorlands) and used for work in the valleys and hills. In modern times, they have been used in nearly every imaginable equestrian pursuit. Fell Ponies today are a rare breed and therefore worthy of both recognition and conservation. Fell Ponies born and reared on the uplands are becoming less and less common in the breed, with possible adverse consequences on the future of the breed. The reasons for the declining upland population are many and complex. The future of Fells on the fells is in part dependent on the quality of stewardship of the ponies on the uplands.
3. Impacts of Agri-environment Schemes to-date
4. Not sustained by market
5. Semi-wild and Native Breed at Risk
6. Central to Lake District/Eden Valley/Northern Pennines History and Culture
7. Conservation Grazing
8. Value to Tourism
9. List of Links/Appendices
Now that an outline for a Fells on the Fells Action Plan exists, it’s possible to start filling in the sections with information so that our breed’s many enthusiasts can do the important work of breed conservation.