Waitrose & Partners Weekend Issue 627

9 1 DECEMBER 2022 News&Views THE SPIRIT OF WALES Racing through their mountain home, the Carneddau ponies of Snowdonia – now known as Eryri – National Park in North Wales, are as wild as the range whose name they share. They have roamed the Carneddau mountains since the Iron Age, shaping the landscape by maintaining paths, keeping down grass, bracken and gorse and increasing biodiversity on 20 square miles of terrain above the villages of Bethesda and Llanfairfechan. Every November, in a centuries-old tradition, the 300-strong herd is gathered by farmers, families and villagers on foot or using Land Rovers and quad bikes to herd the ponies down the mountains into pens. Here, they receive health checks and a tail trim. Historically, their strength and size made them the perfect pit ponies, but now they have a new, important environmental purpose – as conservation grazers. Their ability tomunch coarse grass and produce dung free of artificial substances benefits insects and birds, most notably the once-endangered chough, which now thrives in Eryri. Farmer GarethWyn Jones, whose family association with the ponies stretches back 375 years, says: “They are not just special for the way we use them. They bring a whole community together. People come from everywhere to gather them. “They were here when the Romans were here. They are part of Welsh heritage and history, and for me they are magical, mystical – and absolutely spiritual.” Faith Eckersall The big picture Photograph: Jim Tan