Sycamore Gap: National Trust hope shoots grow from stump of felled tree as suspect bailed

The National Trust is hoping shoots can still grow from the stump of an iconic sycamore tree that was chopped down in “a deliberate act of vandalism” in Northumberland.

Northumbria Police have arrested a 16-year-old boy on suspicion of causing criminal damage after one of the UK’s most famous trees at Sycamore Gap was felled overnight on Wednesday.

The tree, which has stood for almost 300 years, was made famous by a key scene in Kevin Costner’s 1991 film Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves.

National Trust general manger Andrew Poad told BBC Breakfast on Friday that while the community is devastated, there is hope a second tree will grow from the remaining stump.

Mr Poad said: “It’s a very healthy tree, we can see that now, because of the condition of the stump, it may well regrow a coppice from the stump, and if we could nurture that then that might be one of the best outcomes, and then we keep the tree.”

Coppicing is a pruning technique where a tree or shrub is cut to ground level to regenerate new stems from the base. It is commonly used for rejuvenating old shrubs.

People look at the tree at Sycamore Gap, next to Hadrian’s Wall (PA Wire)
People look at the tree at Sycamore Gap, next to Hadrian’s Wall (PA Wire)

Rob Ternent, head gardener at The Alnwick Garden in Northumberland, said the tree will start growing again but "won't ever be the same shape or as good of a tree as it was".

He told the PA news agency: "It's worth a try but I think livestock and wildlife will potentially damage it as well. It'll be very difficult to get it back to the original tree.

"The growing season's coming to an end now but by spring next year it will have some life in it. It'll probably be about eight foot tall, but it'll be lots of singular branches, more bushy.

"It was about 300 years old so it'll take a long time to get back to that size. It's a massive shame."

Superintendent Kevin Waring from Northumbria Police said on Thursday: “The tree is a world-renowned landmark and the vandalism has caused understandable shock and anger throughout the local community and beyond.”

In an update the force said on Friday: “A 16-year-old male was arrested in connection with the incident. He has since been released on police bail, pending further enquiries.”

Northumberland National Park Authority Chief executive Tony Gates said it was “deliberately felled” as an “act of vandalism”.

He said it’s an “incredible loss of an iconic landmark” that served as an inspiration to artists, writers and photographers.

“A lot of people have a deep connection to this place, and fond memories of this place, and to have lost that is a real shame,” he told the BBC.

In 2016, the sycamore was named Tree of the Year by the Woodland Trust.

The sycamore, which stood in a dramatic dip in Hadrian’s Wall, was looked after by both Northumberland National Park Authority and the National Trust.

A photo of the Sycamore Gap last year (Getty Images)
A photo of the Sycamore Gap last year (Getty Images)

Pictures emerged on Thursday morning of it lying on its side near the ancient Roman wall, which is a Unesco World Heritage site.

The news was met with dismay and outrage by walkers’ groups on social media.

Walker Alison Hawkins, who was one of the first people to see the tree had been felled on Thursday morning, told PA: “It was a proper shock. It’s basically the iconic picture that everyone wants to see.”

An online crowdfunding page set up by Northumberland business Alncom for the "rejuvenation of Sycamore Gap" has raised more than £1,700, but the National Trust and National Park Authority have yet to confirm plans for the site.