12 October 2023

Crane lifts Sycamore Gap landmark tree after felling ‘prolonged its life’

12 October 2023

Whoever felled the world-famous tree at Sycamore Gap has “ironically” prolonged its life, a National Trust boss said.

As painstaking works were carried out in Northumberland to remove the 50ft sycamore, believed to have been planted in the late 19th century, thoughts turned to what will happen to the timber and the stump left behind.

A large section of trunk was lifted off Hadrian’s Wall by a crane on tracks, two weeks after it was cut down in an apparent act of vandalism.

Andrew Poad, the general manager of the Roman heritage site for the National Trust, said: “Effectively, what the perpetrator has done is coppice the tree.

“So ironically they have prolonged the life of the tree.”

Plans will be made to keep grazing sheep off the stump, allowing any shoots which emerge to grow.

Mr Poad said the tree will not look the same, but is confident the stump will regrow, which is typical of sycamores.

There has been an outpouring of emotion since the landmark was felled, with many suggestions on what could be done with the felled section, including making benches from the wood, a sculpture or souvenirs to sell.

Mr Poad said the trust welcomed the input from the public and would keep an open mind about what to do next.

The tree was thought to have been planted by Newcastle philanthropist and lawyer John Clayton in the second half of the 19th century.

Mr Clayton was a keen excavator of Hadrian’s Wall and was thought to have planted the tree to fill the dip on landscape which was created by glacial meltwater.

Mr Paon said interest in the tree was “phenomenal” and following a burst of attention in the 1990s when it appeared in the Hollywood film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.

It had also been a popular backdrop for social media photos.

“It’s become a totemic view that people want to get and it is an emblem of Northumberland and, internationally, it is a sought after image to get,” he said.

The crane was driven over rough terrain from the nearest road on Thursday.

Workers with chainsaws lopped off branches before the main section of tree was slowly lifted away from the 1,900-year-old wall, which is a Unesco World Heritage Site and scheduled ancient monument.

It was understood the sections of the felled tree will be moved from the site using a tractor and trailer later on Thursday or on Friday morning.

Seeds have been collected which the National Trust said could be used to propagate saplings.

Northumbria Police arrested a boy aged 16 and a man in his 60s after the tree was felled a fortnight ago. They have been released on bail pending further inquiries.

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