THE Dartmoor pack pony team is set to take on a 100-mile challenge between stannary towns Ashburton, Chagford, Tavistock and Plympton.

Dru Butterfield, from the Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust (DPHT), Sam Goodwin, Dartmoor Pony and Pack, and ponies Billy and Jasmine are to take on an impressive challenge this Autumn (October 16-23).

Taking a route between the four stannary towns, where tin mined on Dartmoor was gathered, weighed and sold, the walk will retrace the steps of ponies’ past.

Paul Rendell, Dartmoor guide and DPHT conservation officer, will be joining Dru and Sam for the entire walk as lead navigator, safety specialist and history advisor.

Dru, Sam and Paul will start at Lukesland near Ivybridge, heading north across the Moor towards Poundsgate, then dropping into Ashburton, back out to Widecombe-in-the-Moor and on to Chagford.

From there they will stop off at Tor Royal near Princetown before reaching Tavistock.

The final leg will take the team to Plympton Castle. They will cover approximately 15-18 miles per day and finish back at Sam’s base near Ivybridge.

The walk hopes to raise awareness of the heritage, temperament and capability of the Dartmoor pony and its historical role as a vital partner to people on Dartmoor.

Dru and Sam have also set themselves a target of £5,000 in aid of the DPHT’s recently announced Dartmoor pony conservation grazing project, with Plymouth University and Dartmoor Zoo.

This will aim to ensure recognition of the ponies’ benefit to biodiversity, ultimately helping to secure their future on Dartmoor and across the UK.

Dru said: ‘The work of the Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust is very dear to my heart. To celebrate its tenth Anniversary I wanted to find a challenge that would highlight all the good things about the ponies’ courage, bravery and resilience.

‘I never knew a pony could actually look after you, I thought it would be the other way around! But our first training walk proved that we will rely heavily on the ponies. This challenge will test whether us humans can show similar attributes, dig deep and achieve something that we will remember for ever.’

Sam added: ‘When I learned that the ponies on Dartmoor have an uncertain future, I was determined to do something to help.

‘So I decided to train some as pack ponies, to set up a business leading people across the Moor, with the ponies carrying their rucksacks or picnics.

‘This 100 Mile Challenge is a great celebration of the ponies and the fantastic landscape they inhabit. I can’t wait to get going!’

Paul Rendell knows more about Dartmoor than most — both about its history and how to walk across it safely, or cope with any dangers that the Moor can often present.

Paul said: ‘Dartmoor can be a challenging place for human and beast; they will have to work together to complete this challenging trek. I am really looking forward to creating partnerships in the way that people did years ago. It will be good to walk some of the ancient routes like the Tavistock to Ashburton Packhorse trail.’

The charity is looking for donations, practical involvement and sponsorship by schools, individuals and businesses throughout the 100 mile challenge area and beyond.

There are also some places available for people to take part for one of the days, with a minimum sponsorship donation of £50 per person.

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