On Location: Drumburgh Moss

For one of my final year university modules we have to do an On Location project. I have chosen to do mine on the pros and cons of grazing feral ponies on nature reserves and for this I am visiting Drumburgh Moss National Nature Reserve in Drumburgh, Cumbria where eight Exmoor ponies roam and graze.

I haven’t seen 5am for a while, but it sure is a tough wake up when it’s dark and cold out. I pushed through getting ready in record time to leave for the bus. Stepping outside I was greeted by a thick fog, covering me like a blanket along with the bitter cold. ‘Gee whizz’ I muttered. Setting off at a brisk walk, I soon warmed up admiring the fog as I went hoping it would stick around until sunrise.

I stepped off the bus at Drumburgh missing the warmth already; I set off down the lane. The droning of the cows drowned out the twitter of the birds I was straining to hear. Not only could I hear them making a racket the smell of cow was overpowering. As I reached the reserve entrance I glanced across a field, a thin layer of mist smothered the ground; the sky had become pink like a sea of cotton candy.

I decided before looking for the ponies, I would have a gander inside the fenced area of the nature reserve where the raised mire is. It was beautiful, from the reflections in the water to the mist rolling off and onto the vegetation to the sparkling water drops, the cob webs twinkled as the orange fireball rose. It was time to move on and get those foggy morning shots I so desired.

No sooner had I rounded the corner I could make out the ponies, clouded in the swirling vapour. As I approached they raised their heads high, their gaze watched my every move checking that I was not a predator. As I neared I started to snap away, the dew laden grass glittered. One watched and posed away, the other two disinterested carried on munching away. He became inquisitive by the noise of my camera and started to approach but in doing this, 4 horses charged out of a little wood behind me. I hadn’t even noticed they were there, only the other two on the opposite side of the path to me. On they cantered towards me, nostrils flared, snorting and prancing. ‘Oh boy, I don’t want to get caught up in this’ I thought. I backed away slowly, making sure I wasn’t going to be stuck in the middle of them, they stopped, observed and one brave pony approaches, a slight wild look in his eye. ‘Steadddy’ I murmured. His ears twitched, slowly he walks on. I moved my arm slightly; he jumps back, spins and runs. Snorting he tries again whilst two others fight just to the left of me, kicking and rearing at each other. This is not the position I want to be in. I edge to my right, slowly making way to give myself a good distance between them again. The inquisitive one follows me, I stop, he stops. Slowly I turn take some pictures, he breathes out, adding to the fog. Shoving his nose towards to the camera lens he sniffs it, deciding I am no threat, he wanders back to his herd. I stand and watch, behind me the golden light softly caressed the land.

The herd move around splitting into their groups of 4, a 3 and a lone one. I think to myself, now then if they would kindly like to stand over there in the golden light it would be beautiful, like the picture I hoped to achieve. What happened next was magical. One pony wandered straight past me, followed by another into the pale orange hue. I stood and gawped. I couldn’t believe it. I snapped away frantically not wanting to miss my chance, in the doing of this, I was joined by a pony stood at my side, looking on he sighed, and nudged me. When I didn’t respond to this he took to grabbing my camera bag between his teeth and pulling backwards, he soon lost interest when this didn’t get a response either and walking into the light.

I don’t know what it is with these ponies, but seemed to love starting a fight right in front of me. For the second time this day I had a pair squeal and rear up at each other. I left them all too it for about half an hour to look around the rest of the reserve before heading back, taking some more photos of the ponies to pass some time before heading to the bus.

Here are a few pictures from yesterday, I took over 700…..and have somehow got to pick ones out for the magazine article and for prints. Fun and games, but please let me know what you think :).

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