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Twelve-bore-toting scientists will be chasing some odd game when they go hunting in the New Forest this month.

There is no chance of their quarry ducking and running once they have it cornered. But blowing the right bits off it will still take the steady hand of a skilled marksman.

Forestry Commission organiser Harry Oram, said: “Far from hurting our 600-year-old Knightwood Oak, the hunters will be trying to immortalise it.

“The tree, which has been visited twice by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, is already famous around the world.

“The scientists will be trying to blast around 20 six-inch twigs off its crown, about 70 feet up.

“These are then going to be grown on to produce new ‘Knightwood’ oaks with identical genes that can live on for another six centuries. Some will be planted near the original tree. Others will go to New Park, near Brockenhurst.”

District forester, Mr. Oram, said the marksmen , from the East Malling Research Establishment, would also be targeting other oaks when they visited next week.

He said they were involved in Oxford University’s ‘Graftwood Programme’ aimed at producing a new generation of top quality trees to enrich woodlands around England.

He said good oaks could not be produced simply by gathering acorns from specimen trees. The seeds might have been fertilised by an inferior tree near by.

He said the only way to guarantee quality was by taking growing wood from the best mature trees. Twigs shot from some of the forest’s finest oaks would be grown on in a special ‘acorn orchard’, in Kent.

He added that they would be surrounded by acres of other oaks ‘propogated’ from material taken from specimen trees from woodlands around England.

Having so many top quality trees in one place will ensure that the acorns they produce will all have been grown from, and fertilised by, the best genetic stock.

The plantation will eventually yield millions of acorns for distribution around the country.

Anyone wanting to find out more about the Knightwood Oak can ring 023 8028 3141, or log on to the


Photographers and journalists are invited to attend when the scientists shoot down samples from the Knightwood Oak, at 2.30pm, on Tuesday, February 7.

Media representatives wishing to attend should ring Miss Emma Stevens, Forestry Commission Communications Manager, on 023 8028 3141, or Mr. Harry Oram, District Forester, on 07774 822204, for further details.