Families visiting a South Tyneside beauty spot this winter are asked to be mindful of the Borough's equine friends.
The Exmoor ponies have returned to Cleadon Hills for their sixth winter in a row to graze the land as part of South Tyneside Council's management of Cleadon Hills Local Nature Reserve.
The Council is reminding people to enjoy the ponies from a safe distance and to avoid providing them with additional food, as the land already provides them with all the food they need to stay fit and well. Dog walkers are also encouraged to keep dogs under control and away from the ponies.
Councillor Joan Atkinson, Lead Member for Area Management and Community Safety, said: "We are delighted to see the return of the ponies. They always prove to be a huge hit with visitors over the winter period and have become a welcome addition to what is a stunning landscape at any time of the year.
"We would like to remind people visiting this winter that it is important that they adhere to the signage in place and do not feed the ponies. Feeding them will not only detract them from doing their job of eating the vegetation but cause them to approach people for food and become a nuisance. Any food given could also make them seriously ill.
"Cleadon Hills is a beautiful place with room for everyone, ponies and people alike. The ponies can still be enjoyed as they graze the land, but preferably from a distance."
The ponies will remain on the site until Easter 2021, before returning again for next year's winter season.
Councillor Atkinson added: "We would like to reassure people that the ponies get plenty of food from the land, even when it is covered in snow. The ponies are a hardy native breed with thick winter coats and are equipped to break through snow for food so that no supplementary feeding is necessary. As they can tackle a wide range of vegetation and conditions, they are the ideal breed for conservation grazing."
Cleadon Hills Local Nature Reserve is a site of special scientific interest (SSSI), which needs to be protected. Exmoor ponies were introduced on the site in 2015 as part of a conservation grazing scheme to help preserve and protect the species-rich grassland for future generations to enjoy.
For further information about Cleadon Hills Local Nature Reserve visit South Tyneside Council's website at www.southtyneside.gov.uk