Unknown thief takes around £350
The Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust (DPHT) is appealing for help to rebuild its donation cairn after it was broken into during the festive period.
The charity's headquarters are on the Parke Estate at Bovey Tracey where it has a carpark next to its visitor and education centre.
It relies on honesty donations from those who park there to pay for hay to feed its six ponies, four of which are used for its Ponies Inspiring People programme, an education, engagement outreach scheme.
The charity's CEO Dru Butterfield estimates that about £350 was stolen and with the box now out of use, until it is replaced with a more secure version, the charity will continue to lose valuable funds.
Dru said: "We were devastated that someone would do this. The car park money is an invaluable source of funding especially during the winter when the ponies need extra forage.
"We're hopeful that someone might step forward and help us rebuild the cairn with a much sturdier version, but until it is built, we will continue losing funds."
The DPHT works with pony keepers who own and breed Dartmoor ponies helping secure their future on the moors. It also promotes the Dartmoor pony for conservation grazing and manages 82 hectares of moorland and heathland at Bellever, Postbridge, where it runs a herd of 26 ponies. Free guided walks across Bellever are a regular offering enabling people to learn about the ponies, conservation grazing, wildlife and habitats on Dartmoor.
Despite the set back, its business as usual for the charity with the visitor centre re-opening in February half term. It will then open continuously from Easter, with a raft of new activities scheduled for 2022 including a new gallery, Dartmoor guides, story tellers and artists who will all be sharing their knowledge of the heritage of Dartmoor ponies and the environment in which they live.
Dru said: "While its been a disappointing start to the New Year we have a wealth of new ideas for 2022 where will be encouraging people of all ages to take advantage of everything we offer here, and really take to heart Dartmoor's wonderful and fascinating heritage, including the important part that the ponies play in it. We'll be taking visitors on a wonderful Dartmoor journey."
If you can offer help in rebuilding the cairn or would like to donate to the charity please visit www.dpht.co.uk