Britain's Robin Hood Sycamore tree becomes victim of environmental hooliganism

Britain's Sycamore tree was notable not only for being next to the ancient wall but also for its cinematic setting

By Web Desk
September 28, 2023
The Sycamore Gap, which was named the 2016 Tree of the Year by the Woodland Trust, has been reduced to a small stump. — AFP

The deliberate destruction of the Sycamore Gap, one of the most photographed trees in the UK, near the Roman-era Hadrian's Wall, a Unesco World Heritage site in northeast England, has angered locals and environmentalists.

The Sycamore was notable not only for being next to the ancient wall but also for its cinematic setting — standing alone in a dramatic dip — and featured in Kevin Costner´s 1991 blockbuster film "Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves".

Local police said a 16-year-old boy had been arrested in connection with the incident.

"Northumberland National Park Authority can confirm that sadly, the famous tree at Sycamore Gap has come down overnight," it said in a statement. "We have reason to believe it has been deliberately felled."

"We are working with the relevant agencies and partners with an interest in this iconic North East landmark and will issue more details once they are known."

The Sycamore, which won the Woodland Trust´s Tree of the Year in 2016, was reduced to a short stump, with the rest of the tree dumped on the wall.

The felled tree, lying partly across the ancient fortification, and its stump was cordoned off with blue and white police tape while visitors were warned to stay away.

The National Trust conservation charity said on X, formerly called Twitter, that it was "shocked and desperately saddened" to learn about "what appears to be an act of vandalism".

The tree "has been an important and iconic feature in the landscape for nearly 200 years and means a lot to the local community", added National Trust general manager Andrew Poad.

Northumbria Police, which is probing the incident, said Thursday afternoon that the teen had been arrested on suspicion of causing criminal damage.

He was taken into custody to help officers with their inquiries, they added.

Superintendent Kevin Waring said, "The events of today have caused significant shock, sadness and anger throughout the local community and beyond."

"Given our investigation remains at a very early stage, we are keeping an open mind," he added.

Hadrian´s Wall — a 73-mile (118-kilometre) stone wall crossing England from the west to east coast — is an international landmark.

Begun in 122 AD during the reign of emperor Hadrian, it marked the boundary between Roman Britannia and unconquered Caledonia to the north.

Thousands of soldiers and many of their families lived along the wall, leaving behind structures and items that have given archaeologists a deep insight into Roman life in the windswept limits of their empire.

Many people expressed their dismay at the destruction of the tree on social media and shared memories connected with it.

"I was sat crocheting at the top of the hill earlier this year while my husband and son were climbing up the rock face next to the tree," one Facebook user said.

Another described proposing to his future wife there.

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Kim McGuinness called the felling a "senseless crime".

"I think we all as a region feel shocked at what has happened," she added.

"Sycamore Gap was a place of happy and moving memories for millions of people and a symbol of hope for people around the world."

Local MP Mary Foy called the felling "a heartbreaking act of mindless vandalism of a much loved, famous landmark in the North East.

"A very sad day for the iconic Sycamore Gap, which will upset so many people around the country — and even across the world," she added.

Local councillor Steven Bridgett wrote that the tree "has definitely been cut down using a chainsaw."