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From Robin Hood to the Chainsaw – The Dramatic End of a Beloved Icon

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Written By Lakeisha Ethans

Heritage Gardener with Grafting Expertise

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Home » Ancient & Remarkable Trees » From Robin Hood to the Chainsaw – The Dramatic End of a Beloved Icon

Once nestled in a striking dip along Hadrian’s Wall, near Crag Lough in the windswept landscapes of Northumberland, the Sycamore Gap Tree stood as a silent witness to centuries of history.

Known affectionately as the Robin Hood Tree, it captured the imaginations of many, thanks to its cinematic debut beside Kevin Costner in the 1991 film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.

The Sycamore Gap Tree and Hadrins Wall
The Sycamore Gap Tree and Hadrian’s Wall

This iconic sycamore, which sprouted in the late 19th century—planted by the historical steward of Hadrian’s Wall, John Clayton—was more than just a tree. It was a beloved emblem of the North East of England, celebrated as one of the most photographed trees in the country.

Its story took a somber turn on September 28, 2023. In the shadow of Storm Agnes’s howling winds, a heinous act of vandalism at dawn claimed the tree.

Cut down by a chainsaw, marked with a white line just below the harsh incision, the tree’s felling sparked a profound outpouring of grief and disbelief across the nation.

The Felled Sycamore Gap Tree
The tree two days after it was felled – Wandering wounder, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The community mourned not only the loss of a natural treasure but also the backdrop to countless personal memories—from wedding proposals to tranquil moments under its expansive canopy.

The investigation into the tree’s untimely demise led to the arrest of four individuals, two of whom were later charged with criminal damage to both the tree and the historic wall it stood beside.

As authorities and locals grappled with the void left by its absence, the National Trust and the custodians of Northumberland National Park began to ponder the future of this cherished site.

In the aftermath, the resilience of nature hinted at a silver lining. The robust stump, seemingly undeterred, sparked hopes of regrowth in coppiced form.

Sycamore Gap Tree at Night
Sycamore Gap Tree at Night (Before it was maliciously cut down).

Meanwhile, seeds collected from the fallen tree began a new chapter as they sprouted into seedlings, promising a future where the legacy of the Sycamore Gap tree might continue in new saplings, each carrying a piece of history.

This tale of natural beauty, cultural heritage, and community connection underscores the profound bond between humans and the landscapes they cherish.

As the story of the Sycamore Gap tree continues to unfold, it serves as a poignant symbol of loss, resilience, and rebirth in the heart of Northumberland.

Digging Deeper

Location

The Sycamore Gap tree was situated between Milecastle 39 and Crag Lough by Hadrian’s Wall, on a cliff edge of the Whin Sill in Northumberland, making it a dramatic scenic spot in northern England.

Sycamore Gap Tree Panoramic

Type of Tree

A Sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus), the tree was a prominent natural landmark, having grown robustly since its planting in the late 19th century.

Is the Sycamore Gap Tree Still Alive?

After being maliciously felled in September 2023, the original Sycamore Gap tree no longer stands, though there is hope that the remaining stump may yet regenerate.

Descendants

Efforts to continue the lineage of the iconic tree are underway, with seeds from the felled tree being nurtured to grow new saplings.

Can You Visit It?

While the original tree is gone, visitors can still explore the location at Sycamore Gap, which remains a popular destination for its historical significance and natural beauty.

Sycamore Gap
Sycamore Gap

Conservation

The felled tree’s site and the surrounding Hadrian’s Wall are under the stewardship of the National Trust, ensuring ongoing conservation efforts and historical preservation.

Legacy

The Sycamore Gap Tree leaves behind a legacy as a symbol of natural beauty and cultural heritage, celebrated through photographs and memories of its picturesque presence beside Hadrian’s Wall.

Want More?

If the tale of the Sycamore Gap Tree has captivated you, explore the fascinating histories of other remarkable trees from across the globe.

Be amazed by the Great Banyan in India, which resembles a forest made up of its own vast network of roots.

Contemplate the age-old stories told by the ancient Olive Trees of Gethsemane.

Experience the peaceful isolation of That Wānaka Tree in New Zealand, the distinguished Lone Cypress, or the compelling narrative of the Great Kapok Tree.

Each tree is a striking symbol of nature’s enduring beauty, providing distinct and memorable glimpses into the planet’s ecological marvels, including the expansive Ombalantu Baobab tree.

Sources – Wikipedia & Reuters

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Lakeisha Ethans

Heritage Gardener with Grafting Expertise

Lakeisha grew up in East Africa, literally surrounded by nature which sparked her interest in learning more about trees and plants from a very young age. She belongs to a family of gardeners, so for her, gardening is a way of life, a tradition she’s proud to uphold. As a self-taught gardener, Lakeisha has successfully grafted trees to produce hybrids for gardens and landscapes. When she’s not gardening, she’s writing about her experience with nature or watching baking fails!