Friday, September 29, 2023

The Sycamore Gap Tree

As you probably know, Hadrian’s wall cuts across this island, almost in the middle. It was built by the Romans to keep the marauding savages from the north out. And, of course, that was Hadrian. Anthony had an idea to build another wall a bit further up as he was a little more optimistic. That was the Antonine wall and runs just north of Glasgow. I’m not sure why he toddled north another seventy miles or so. Did he want Glasgow as part of the Roman Empire and then decide not to bother?  Or did he think it was a visit from the Good Idea Bear before realising what Hadrian had already found out. Indeed, was Hadrian before Anthony or afterwards? Does it matter? I’m sure it mattered to them.

However Hadrian’s Wall is rather famous. And was made more so in a certain film  starring Kevin Costner (not in tights) and Morgan Freeman, as Robin Hood and Azeem. Was it 1991?  It was well after Hadrian and Anthony anyway.  I think the song though, with Brian Adams leaning against a tree (and nobody, I mean nobody, shooting him with an arrow to get him to shut up,) was at number one in the charts  for most of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, or it just seemed that way.

I digress. In that film, the two of them climb a tree, (the tree that is the subject of this blog) and hide, then jump out at some passing person on a horse.  It’s a famous tree and the gap in the wall, the natural dip in the land, is called the Sycamore Gap. It’s a natural passing place to go from north to south.

It has been a favourite spot for walkers on the wall to stop for a picture and a picnic.  The tree, anything from 300 to 400 years old was voted Britain’s favourite tree in 2016.

The multi million selling author from Cumbria LJ Ross uses the  famous motif of the tree in many of her book covers, mostly right on the front of this one.

The tree suffered a little bit of damage earlier this week due to a storm

Then, during the night on Wednesday into Thursday, some wee hooligan went out and cut it down.

The locals of Northumberland reacted, as you would  expect with  extreme anger  and not a little bewilderment at the damage caused to the iconic landmark.

At first, it was thought the tree had come down because of the storm damage, but further inspection, and the very neat saw tooth marks on the exposed trunk told their own story. The Northumberland National Park were quoted as saying the damage had been done “deliberately and illegally”.

The leader of the council has called for the guilty party to be “severely punished”.

The newsfeature made it to the front pages and it was on the  national news.

All because a tree was cut down.

A sixteen year old has been arrested.

People are shocked obviously. The tree, sitting where it did, was a legend.

Quotes are;  “No matter how sick they might be….it has come as a huge shock to me and a huge shock to people across the world, not just in the North East.”

“It is the most unbelievable and appalling act that anybody could even think about doing.”

“if we find the person, they are punished severely for this act of wanton nastiness. It is an icon for Northumberland and the whole of the country. It is one of the most iconic places, because it is so beautiful and so peaceful.”


Even the Police and Crime Commissioner, Kim McGuinness was quoted as saying  “I’m devastated that the famous Sycamore is gone. That tree was ours. It was an iconic North East landmark standing tall in our beautiful Northumberland. I am incandescent that this looks like a deliberate act of vandalism. I’ll be raising this personally today. I know Northumbria Police are at the scene and officers will do their utmost to catch whoever is behind this. It is terrible news.”

"I'm outraged that someone has done this to such a beautiful tree. What the hell is the world coming to?"

The 70 foot tree had even inspired its own beer!

So it has gone for good.  After being so carefully tended to  when the ground around it was excavated in 1908/ 1911 and  then again 1982/ 1987. Many Roman and Medieval artefacts were found, due to its unique location. The tree stood there as a benign keeper of the gate, a spot for proposals, walkers, hikers, historians, photographers and stargazers.

Since 1987, the tree, has been part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site based around Hadrian's Wall.

And I think that that fact will increase any criminal charges brought against the young person concerned.

Some folk are saying, it’s a tree. One tree. Governments are felling trees and destroying the planet all over the place and nobody cares.

And that is true but sometimes it takes one symbolic act to bring matters home.

I really hope the felling of the Sycamore Gap Tree acts as a trigger and a focus for some more protection of the environment.




  1. Replies
    1. Today, the nation has been reassured that the tree is not dead. Seemingly within two weeks, it will sprout new growth, then have a rest over winter and then have a real growth spurt next spring. And that sounds like a good plan for us all....

  2. In an alternate reality, the vandal's punishment would be to plant a replacement sycamore and have his life mandated to its safe upkeeping. If it dies, he does: literally, a life sentence.

  3. Or could he be pinned down over it, until it grows through his puny wee body in a Gardener's World meets Vlad the Impaler kind of way....