Charity’s latest equine recruits devour Culloden’s invaders

Four of the five ponies that now graze on the Culloden battlefield. Photo: National Trust of Scotland
Four of the five ponies that now graze on the Culloden battlefield. Photo: National Trust of Scotland

The Battle of Culloden in 1746 marked the final confrontation of the Jacobite Rising. Now, five latter-day equine recruits to have been enlisted to wage war on the historic battlefield – against rampant scrub.

The National Trust for Scotland, a conservation charity, has brought in five highland ponies, named Fraoch, Ghillie Bhuidhe, Findhorn Paulo, Gordina and Grian, for the task.

The charity jokes the five are are happy to work seven days a week in all weathers without even going on the payroll.

The ponies, owned and bred by the Ormiston family at Newtonmore Pony Centre, will help combat an invasion of scrub that threatens to turn the famous moorland battlefield into woodland.

Their arrival makes the start of a trial grazing programme.

The trust says it is a good example of rare-breed livestock being offered a new role in conservation grazing, where their hardiness and ability to thrive on rough pasture can be turned to mutual advantage.

Ironically, where woodland regeneration would be welcomed at other conservation sites, the objective at Culloden is to halt a process that threatens to alter the landscape from how it would have appeared on April 16, 1746, when Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Jacobite army faced its final defeat at the hands of Government forces.

“Standing at the centre of the battlefield, it was satisfying to see the ponies looking so much at home in Culloden’s environment,” said Rob Dewar, the trust’s nature conservation adviser.

“The ponies have settled in well and, on my last visit, Grian rolled on his back and kicked out his legs almost as if to emphasise how happy he feels here.

“Although Culloden will always have a melancholy atmosphere because of what happened on this site, those bare-backed ponies lifted my sprit, and in some way their presence felt very poignant to me.”

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