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Sycamore Gap tree: The story so far

  • By Chris Robinson
  • BBC North East and Cumbria

image source, Mark Beadle

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The tree is popular with photographers throughout the seasons

The Sycamore Gap tree, which once stood at the foot of Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland, has been felled. It’s an extremely famous landmark, but what makes it different and why does it affect so many people?

What is the Sycamore Gap tree?

Quite simply, it is a sycamore tree growing in a natural patch in the countryside along Hadrian’s Wall, near the village of Once Brewed.

The National Trust, which manages the site with the Northumberland National Park Authority, said it was planted by previous landowner John Clayton in the late 1800s. become a “feature in the landscape”.

image source, PA Media/Owen Humphreys

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Forensic investigators examined the remains of the Sycamore Gap tree

Although a popular location for hikers and photographers due to its unusual setting, it became famous after appearing in the 1991 film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. by Kevin Costner. It was later nicknamed the Robin Hood Tree – although in fact it is about 170 miles (273 km) from Sherwood Forest.

Dan Newman, whose character Wulf hides in a tree and is rescued by the eponymous hero, told the BBC that this was the first scene he shot on his first day on set.

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Watch: The Sycamore Gap… then and now

Author LJ Ross, whose second novel is named after the tree, said many creators “feel inspired” by it.

It is also a focal point along the 84-mile (135 km) Hadrian’s Wall route between Wallsend, North Tyneside and Bowness-on-Solway, Cumbria.

image source, Warner Bros./Kevin Reynolds

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Kevin Costner, Morgan Freeman and Dan Newman in a tree in the 1991 film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves

What happened to the tree?

On the morning of September 28, 2023, news spread that the tree had been “deliberately” cut down overnight.

A police investigation was launched and a lockdown was put in place.

Forensics officers were seen measuring and taking samples from remains and taking photos of the area.

One person is heard saying: “In 31 years of forensics, I have never examined a tree.”

Two men in their 30s were arrested on suspicion of criminal damage and have been released on bail, Northumbria Police said.

The force confirmed that a man in his 60s and a 16-year-old boy who were also arrested will not face further action.

image source, BBC/Dave Edwards

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The site is cared for by the National Trust and Northumberland National Park

How did people react?

The toppling of the tree led to an outpouring of anger and shock.

Hexham Conservative MP Guy Opperman said people he spoke to were “absolutely stunned” and “saddened” by the damage, and described the sycamore tree as “an icon of the North East”.

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The tree was planted by the previous landowner in the late 1800s

Hairy Biker Si King, who grew up in County Durham, posted on social media that the “keeper of time and elemental spirit of Northumberland” had been “murdered”.

She said it was “so moving to see it in its final hours”.

It is also where marriage proposals, emotional moments and ash scattering take place.

image source, Darren Edmonds

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The tree is considered a symbol of the Northeast

The outpouring of emotions led to spontaneous poems about its untimely end and photos from every angle and every season were shared.

It was “a place where one could truly be free,” wrote Harriet Robinson.

image source, PA Media/Owen Humphreys

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Visitors have been advised to stay away from the site while the investigation is underway

What will happen to the tree?

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A crane was brought in to remove the tree, which was cut into smaller pieces because of its large size

The trust said that while it is hoped that the original tree will regrow from its trunk, it will take up to three years for experts to know whether this is possible.

It is also hoped the public will have their say on future plans.

image source, PA Media/Owen Humphreys

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Workers at the scene used chainsaws to cut the tree trunk before removing it

Everyone was ready to lend a helping hand.

A fundraising site has been set up with more than £4,000 raised to help “improve and rejuvenate” the area around the tree.

The National Trust has advised people to “treat tree stumps with respect” and encouraged people to share their ideas.

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Visitors to the site have been advised by the National Trust to treat the tree stump with “respect”.

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Carrie Page and Christine Hopper pay homage to the tree with this letterbox

Thousands of ideas have been sent to officials including turning the chest into a bench or sculpture, although they remain “open-minded”, with details yet to be announced.


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