Peter Yates is a long standing breed enthusiast and is regularly found photographing Exmoors across the country. He’s got a keen eye for a picture and has always been incredibly generous with his photos. Peter is also a dedicated supporter of many of the moorland herds and enjoys capturing the spectacular scenes as they are gathering in during October. He tells us about his visit to watch the Hawkwell Herd (Herd 12) being gathered from below Dunkery Beacon…
It doesn’t seem long ago, when we attended our first Hawkwell gathering in 2010 where we first saw the beautiful yearling filly, ‘Sariska’, and came home with her. This years gather was a different format to years gone by, as the the ponies with foals would be separated from the Herd and then brought down to West Hawkwell Farm; usually the whole herd is brought back to the farm.
We left the farm at 10:30a.m. and made our way to Dunkery Gate to wait for the arrival of those coming in. We waited and waited; the ponies were obviously not told of this new arrangement and refused to cooperate! Needless to say, much later in the afternoon we heard that they were on their way from Codsend.
Three Mares with Foals at foot plus two yearlings were seen moving along the hedge line and after crossing the road they were channelled down the “chute” where they were allowed to rest before continuing the journey to West Hawkwell, leaving 20 mares and three foals plus the stallion ‘Hawkell Goes Zafonic’ still on Codsend. The foals coming in with their dams were the ones that we needed and as those left at Codsend were a mixture of Tawbitts (Herd 117/H17) and Herd 4 foals.
When the ponies had rested, they were let out of the chute and sent on their way home. We, as usual, were blocking the road at Long Lane, firstly to stop traffic and secondly to guide the ponies down Long Lane – not they needed guiding as both ‘Cherry’ and ‘Hawkwell Lily Langtree’ know the ropes and would get home without any prompting from us! Normally the ponies come home at a very fast pace, but because of trying to pen them and they kept escaping, to be herded again, the return was at a more sedate pace.
Once back at the farm the third foal’s dam had her brand checked to see who she was and confirmed that it was in fact, ‘Tawbitts Dulcie’ so didn’t need to come back to the farm. The other two Hawkwell mares had filly foals and both fillies already have new owners; although I was quite taken with Lilys foal! Lily is grand-dam to our own ‘Hawkwell Maybe’.
We bade our farewells after some light refreshments in the farmhouse but not before we went and checked to see how the foals had settled. Suffice to say they were quite relaxed, standing with there respective Mothers.
On Tuesday, we returned for the inspection and this time Michael Western had come over from Ireland to help (Michael is the son of Anne & John Western who own the herd) and share his expertise with the handling of the foals. It was a joy to watch his calmness as he went about their handling with the minimal of fuss and the foals seemed to respond well to him.
All three foals passed their inspection plus a yearling who had come up from Bullseye, the home of the Tawbitts Ponies. After all ponies and foals had been turned out, we retired to the farmhouse for some of the famous Hawkwell hospitality. Our stay soon came to an end, but not before Michael, Alison (my wife) and I had been out to meet Michael’s 27 year old Welsh Section A stallion, ‘Daz’ who was not in the least fussed when we went into the field. He looked up, saw us and then promptly carried on grazing. A great time was had by all.