HOLLY trees in the New Forest are being felled to provide food for ponies and deer struggling to survive in the Arctic conditions.

The work is being undertaken as part of the Forestry Commission’s annual pollarding scheme, which aims to maintain the Forest’s habitats.

A commission spokesman said: “Pollarding is key to our wildlife conservation efforts and also enables us to supply our larger inhabitants with additional food. Holly is a real treat at this time of year so when the forest craftsmen rev up their chainsaws it doesn’t take long for the ponies to appear.”

All New Forest ponies are owned by people known as commoners – villagers with the right to let their animals roam the area.

Historically, commoners would have cut back the holly as feed for their livestock. The commission has now taken on the task of felling the trees to ensure the maintenance of local plant and wildlife habitats.

Left uncropped, holly trees would shade out the lower levels of woodland that are home to rare lichens, which thrive on sunlight.

The trunks of felled trees are put to good use as firewood, while the foliage is left behind for animals to eat.