Along a New Forest lane in the midday heat of a humid summer day. Like a latter-day Stubbs painting, a group of commoners` ponies rest beneath two oak trees that reach across the lane to form a canopy of shade. Every summer day they stand here, as their mothers and grandmothers will have stood before them.
Driving through this little family is a slow and careful business. Sometimes a pony will turn to let you pass. Sometimes you have to wait, and wait, or wave a duster out of the window, hoping for some movement.
Yesterday, I squeezed the car carefully through. No one was behind me, so I stopped to take some photographs. The young dark grey mare is likely to be a half sister to our own Grey Pony. He was born on this heath four springs ago, and lived with this family group until his mother was killed by a car one night. Aged six weeks, he came to us as an unhandled orphan. Now he is a kind, beautiful young gelding who is beginning his education. We hope he may be a riding pony by next summer. The grey mare looks so much like him. I feel sure that the same grey stallion is their father.
Another possible half sister. She looks around four years old.
Just away from the group, a single chestnut mare cropped the new, sweet grass growing between blackened gorse stumps. Controlled burning leaves a stark, twiggy landscape of charcoal branches, until the rain comes and grass grows again. It will not be long before new gorse sprouts from the burned earth. A new supply of food for ponies and cattle in the years to come.