A 16-year-old boy has been arrested on suspicion of causing criminal damage in connection with the felling of the world-famous Sycamore Gap tree on Hadrian’s Wall.
The fallen tree, which dates from the 18th century, was discovered by walkers in Northumberland on Thursday morning after someone took a chainsaw to its trunk overnight.
The sycamore was voted Woodland Trust Tree of the Year in 2016 and was visited by tens of thousands of walkers each year – even featuring in the 1991 film Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, which starred Kevin Costner and Morgan Freeman.
Kim McGuinness, the Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, said she was “incandescent” and the force vowed to “use every tactic at our disposal” to find the culprit.
“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,” she added.
The arrested boy remains in custody and is assisting officers with their inquiries, Northumbria Police said on Thursday afternoon.
The National Trust, which owns the land, told The Telegraph that it may be possible to protect the stump so that the tree could regrow again. The organisation is also looking into gathering the seeds.
Tristan Gooley, author of How To Read A Tree, described the felling as “terrible” but said that unless the tree was dying it should continue to keep growing.
“Unless poisoned or on its last legs anyway, most broadleaf trees that are cut down will sprout back up into multi-stemmed trees,” he said.
Alan Titchmarsh, the TV gardener, who nearly died at the spot when his helicopter crashed 100 feet from the tree in 2003 while filming a television programme, said it was tragic that the tree had been cut down.
“I know [the tree] well,” he said: “It may well re-grow but it will most likely become multi-stemmed and not nearly so statuesque. It would really be better if a new one was planted, and carefully watched over.”
Nestled in a dramatic dip in Hadrian’s Wall, the sycamore tree was one of the most photographed in Britain. It is located between Milecastle 39 and Crag Lough, about two miles west of Housesteads Roman Fort.
In recent decades it had became known as the Robin Hood Tree after featuring in a key scene in the Kevin Reynolds film.
It also appeared in the music video for the Bryan Adams film soundtrack hit (Everything I Do) I Do It for You which featured on the film’s soundtrack and topped the singles chart for 16 weeks.
On Google Maps on Thursday, Sycamore Gap was renamed as Sycamore Stump.
Andrew Poad, general manager of The National Trust, said: “The tree has been an important and iconic feature in the landscape for nearly 200 years and means a lot to the local community and to anyone who has visited the site.
“We are deeply shocked at what appears to be an act of vandalism.”
Since January the illegal felling of trees has been punishable with unlimited fines and prison sentences.
Members of the public were told to stay away from the site while inquiries were being carried out but asked to report anything suspicious.
Guy Opperman, the minister for employment and MP for nearby Hexham, called it an “attack on one of the nation’s most famous trees.
“This is clearly the work of someone very capable with a large chainsaw to cut such a tree, in the way they did, in the middle of the night in Storm Agnes,” he said.
“This was not an act by any of the official organisations who are responsible for Hadrian’s Wall, the World Heritage sites or the national park, who are all devastated.”
“I was here only 10 days ago. Everyone is in shock.”
Speaking after the arrest, Supt Kevin Waring, of Northumbria Police, said: “This is a world-renowned landmark and the events of today have caused significant shock, sadness and anger throughout the local community and beyond.
“An investigation was immediately launched following this vandalism, and this afternoon we have arrested one suspect in connection with our inquiries.
“Given our investigation remains at a very early stage, we are keeping an open mind. I am appealing to the public for information to assist us – if you have seen or heard anything suspicious that may be of interest to us, please let us know.”