Machines and high-tech are playing their part in the conservation and development of ancient oak woodlands near Ledbury.

Dymock Forest Rural Action is responding to national and international calls to sow and grow trees that are native to the area.

But it’s not just a case of gathering the acorns in a traditional manual way.

Writing in this month’s parish magazine for Dymock, Chris Bligh of Dymock Forest Rural Action said: “The Dymock Forest is a prime focus for conservation and professional policies of climate change and sustainability.”

But first of all, the acorns have to fall, and the gathering of the crop must be timed to perfection, because any significant rainfall will harm the fallen acorns.

Mr Bligh said: “The mechanised process works like this. Immediately after the flailing of the bracken layer, the forest floor at Shaw Common is turned into a winter wonderland by a new contractor, Forestart of Shrewsbury.”

The forest floor in the chosen area is covered with netting “to gather as many falling acorns as possible.”

The bagged-up acorns are taken to Forestart’s winnowing sheds and graded. Acorns are then floated in water baths, to remove insects and detritus; they are then heated in a kiln to reduce moisture, but without cooking and killing the acorns.

Mr Bligh said: “The different grades are then put in cold store to stall any germination, thus being fresh for distrubution on demand in spring, and times for the early growing weather.”

This should ensure not only new oaks for Dymock Forest but sustainable timber for the future.

Mr Bligh said: “It will supply a truly carbon neutral supply of construction timber into the far future.

“The quality of Dymock oak timber is legendary. Its provenance, from pure strands of sessile oak planted in 1840, supports a premium product for planting to mitigate climate change.”

Last February, Dymock Forest Rural Action helped to organise a mass planting Queens Wood, Kempley.

People were invited to help plant 500 trees in a special community event as part of the Centenary Glade project ‘to nurture a shared forest unlike any other.’