Bizzare theories are swirling tonight over why the world famous Sycamore Gap tree, which appeared in Kevin Costner‘s 1991 film Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves, was chopped down in the middle of the night, as a 16-year-old boy is quizzed by police.
The much-loved landmark at Sycamore Gap, next to Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland.
Mystery surrounds how the damage could have been done, with some theorising that ‘a professional who knew where they were going to cut’ was responsible, perhaps requiring a torch to complete the job at night. It is possible the perpetrator would have required an accomplice to hold the light or assist with a chainsaw – but police have not yet confirmed how many people were involved.
One person took to social media X to say they were ‘morbidly curious’ to find out who chopped the historic tree down and what their motivation was for ‘destroying a piece of living history’. They added: ‘If only trees could talk.’
Northumbria Police confirmed this afternoon that a 16-year-old boy had been arrested on suspicion of causing criminal damage and was in police custody.
Following this an X, formerly Twitter, user said: ‘No way could a 16-year-old wimpy kid do that on his own. I smell a rat.’ While another user questioned: ‘What’s the motive – I can’t fathom it?’
People look at the tree at Sycamore Gap next to Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland today
People look at the tree at Sycamore Gap next to Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland today
This morning, park rangers and walkers found to their horror the tree lying on its side by the wall having been cut down in an apparent act of vandalism.
The tree stood in a remote rural location about 250ft away from the Hadrian’s Wall footpath and 1,800ft as the crow flies to the nearest road, the B6318.
Officers had earlier said they believed the damage was a deliberate act of vandalism and said ‘anyone found to be responsible can expect to be dealt with swiftly and appropriately’.
The tree was found chopped down this morning, with its upper section lying across the historic Roman barrier.
Walkers noticed how part of the tree appeared to have been marked with white paint, indicating someone may have felled it with a chainsaw.
Northumberland National Park Authority believe the tree was deliberately chopped down
The Sycamore Gap on Hadrian’s Wall, Northumberland, featured in the 1991 blockbuster film ‘Robin Hood Prince of Thieves’ (pictured) starring Kevin Costner and Morgan Freeman
The felled Sycamore Gap in Northumberland. The tree was found chopped down this morning, with its upper section lying across the historic Roman barrier
The tree that stars couldn’t keep away from – and narrowly avoided being damaged in helicopter crash that could have killed Alan Titchmarsh
In 2003, the tree escaped damage when a helicopter that was filming documentary series British Isles – A Natural History crashed less than 100 feet away
Known to some as the Robin Hood Tree after its appearance in Kevin Costner’s 1991 film, Sycamore Gap is one of the most photographed trees in the country.
It stands next to Hadrian’s Wall near Crag Lough in Northumberland and is believed to have been planted in the early 18th century.
It is said to have once stood alongside others but eventually became the only one left – making it especially photogenic.
In Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, the hero – played by Costner – is seen pulling leaves from the tree as he walks under it with the warrior Azeem, who is played by Morgan Freeman.
The tree also featured in the music video for American star Bryan Adams’ hit (Everything I Do) I Do It for You, which was the soundtrack for Costner’s Robin Hood film.
In 2003, the tree escaped damage when a helicopter that was filming documentary series British Isles – A Natural History crashed less than 100 feet away.
The four onboard the aircraft were injured, but presenter Alan Titchmarsh, who was standing on the ground, narrowly escaped harm.
Titchmarsh said at the time: ‘I was pretty shaken and I was worried the copter was going to explode. The crew scrambled out and ran like hell.’
An eyewitness added: ‘Alan Titchmarsh was very lucky not to be hit.
‘He was almost underneath the helicopter when it fell but jumped out of the way as it came down.
‘The aircraft landed on its side and everyone, including Alan, ran to help. Everyone was amazed the crew were not seriously hurt.’
It has sparked claims that the tree was vandalised by a ‘professional’ and the park authority believes it was deliberately chopped down.
People have been discouraged from visiting the spot while the police investigation takes place.
Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Kim McGuinness said: ‘Northumbria Police have acted fast, showing their dedication to the region and now a 16-year-old male is in custody.
‘This senseless crime has forever damaged an icon in the North East.
‘I think we all as a region feel shocked at what has happened. Sycamore Gap was a place of happy and moving memories for millions of people, and a symbol of home for people around the world.
‘It’s important now that we let justice that its course, and my thanks are with our hardworking police officers for their actions today.’
Alison Hawkins, who lives in Liverpool, was one of the first people on the scene this morning, posting a picture on Facebook with the caption: ‘An awful moment for all walking Hadrian’s Wall. The Sycamore Gap tree has gone! Not the storm an absolute ******* felled it!!’
Ms Hawkins, who was on her fourth day of walking Hadrian’s Wall, said she was ‘tearful’ when she discovered the tree had been cut down.
She said: ‘At first we thought it was because of the storm but then we saw a national park ranger.
‘He said it had been cut down and there was paint around the cut section, so it was a professional who knew where they were going to cut.
‘It was a proper shock. It’s basically the iconic picture that everyone wants to see. You can forgive nature doing it but you can’t forgive that.’
A Northumberland National Park Authority spokesman said: ‘Northumberland National Park Authority can confirm that sadly, the famous tree at Sycamore Gap has come down over night. We have reason to believe it has been deliberately felled.
‘We are working with the relevant agencies and partners with an interest in this iconic North East landmark and will issue more details once they are known.’
They added: ‘It is not clear currently whether the tree is a victim of Storm Agnes or it is a deliberate act – though pictures indicate a clean and straight cut.’
Matt Brown, 37, of the Twice Brewed Brew Company nearby, was one of the first at the scene.
Mr Brown said: ‘I was brewing when I heard a rumour that the tree at Sycamore Gap had been cut down and ran over to see what had happened.
‘It was a quite a shock to see it lying there, that tree is a real icon and to those of us who were born in this area it really means something.
‘It was certainly cut down with a chainsaw – and a big one. It looks as though it has been cut through with one stroke which means the blade must have been about two metres long.
A Northumberland National Park Authority spokesman said: ‘Northumberland National Park Authority can confirm that sadly, the famous tree at Sycamore Gap has come down over night. We have reason to believe it has been deliberately felled’
Momentoes are pictured at the base of the felled Sycamore Gap tree, along Hadrian’s Wall
A flower placed at the tree at Sycamore Gap, next to Hadrian’s Wall, in Northumberland
The mayor for North Tyne and Metro, Jamie Driscoll, visited the devastation and said: ‘This tree is iconic. You can see love stones on the floor where people in the past have proposed to their partners
The iconic tree, which is believed to be 300 years old, was this morning found cut down
Part of the tree appears to have been marked with white paint, indicating that someone may have felled it with a chainsaw
The felled Sycamore Gap tree is pictured behind a police cordon along Hadrian’s Wall
‘It was done overnight and seems to be a thought-out and planned act. But why anyone would choose to do such a thing is beyond me.
‘There can’t be anyone with such an issue against that particular tree that they walk a mile at night to go and saw it down, it’s an act of malice but can only be for malice’s sake.
‘The tree can be seen from the old military road that passes by but to access it you have to climb over barbed wire and walk through marshy ground for a mile.
‘I noticed also that the trunk had been marked at the spot where the cut was going to be made.
‘This is someone who knows how to fell trees and made sure it toppled in the right direction, but it’s hard to fathom why anyone would do this.
‘I was speaking to a Canadian lady only yesterday who had come to this spot specifically to see the Sycamore Gap tree. It is an icon and something particularly special to the brewery.
‘Our signature ale is called Sycamore Gap and the tree is our logo. It’s genuinely hard to believe that this has happened.
The Sycamore Gap tree is pictured today after being felled in Northumberland
Police vehicles near the location of the tree at Sycamore Gap, next to Hadrian’s Wall today
People look at the tree at Sycamore Gap next to Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland today
The Sycamore Gap was voted English Tree of the Year in 2016
Walkers and locals said it was ‘unforgiveable’ if the tree was deliberately vandalised
A walker with a flower kneels to look at the felled tree
A police investigation is taking place as the hunt for the possible vandal continues
Some have suggested the tree was felled by a ‘professional’
The Sycamore Gap was voted English Tree of the Year in 2016 in the Woodland Trust’s awards and is much-loved by people from across the world.
The mayor for North Tyne and Metro, Jamie Driscoll, visited the devastation and said: ‘This tree is iconic. You can see love stones on the floor where people in the past have proposed to their partners.
‘Other people have had their ashes scattered here. This is part of our culture. I have family in North America and when they come across we take them here.
‘This is not a tree cut down. This is an insult to the people of Northumberland. If you look at the damage, you realise it is someone with a 28-inch chainsaw who knew what they’re doing.
‘I’ve had lots of messages from people who are upset about it. I’m normally a measured man but I’m very angry about this.
‘I’ve heard people are in tears. It’s a really special place to the people from the surrounding area.’
Mr Driscoll is now hoping the culprit will hand themselves in to the police.
‘It’s a really healthy tree and someone knows who did this,’ he added. ‘If they have any decency at all they should contact the police.
‘Hadrian’s Wall has been here for coming up to 2,000 years so we will work together with the authorities to come up with something that is fitting.’
Photographer Sophie Parkinson said she had to visit the site to see it with her own eyes.
The 31-year-old said: ‘This tree has been such a huge part of my livelihood so I had to come down and have a look for myself. When I heard about it this morning I thought it was a hoax.
‘It’s absolutely devastating and it makes you wonder why someone would do this. The tree was such an iconic part of the North East. I’ve spent most of the morning in tears.
‘It’s not just a tree. It held such a special place for the people around here. I have photographed it in every season and I was here only a fortnight ago to capture the Northern Lights.
‘It clearly doesn’t look like it’s been blown over in the wind. Someone must know some sort of information that could help the police. I think it was definitely planned.
‘They must have come along overnight when the forecast was so bad when no one was here.’
Chris Dunphy had always planned to visit the site and had no idea of the news when he finally made the trip today.
The 41-year-old, from Kendal, Cumbria, said: ‘I walked past it and I saw all of the police cars and knew something was up. But when I actually saw it I had to sit down and take it all in.
‘This isn’t just kids setting a camp fire and causing issues. This is a proper professional job. It’s really sad for the people of Northumberland and Cumbria, but also tourists visiting.
‘You don’t think suddenly, “I’m going to cut down an iconic tree today”. So it must have been pre-planned. It looks like something off Vera when you see all the police cars on the hill.’
Barbara Perry, 75, was on a walking trip with her husband and in-laws when she passed the now crime scene.
The retired bank worker, from Harrogate, North Yorkshire, said: ‘We have been here before but we wanted to come back. We nearly came yesterday but the weather wasn’t so good so we came back today.
‘But when I got here I couldn’t believe it. I find it all very sad. I think someone has come in a big car perhaps and done it overnight, but even I can’t see any tyre tracks.
‘People are in amazement about it. I can’t understand why someone would do this.
‘If someone were to smash a window or break into a cash machine you can at least understand why they do it. But with this I can’t believe it. Someone has had to think about it and plan it. It’s an absolute shame.’
This morning the iconic tree, which is believed to be a few hundred years old, was discovered lying next to the Roman Wall
The Sycamore Gap, cut down last night, is pictured here in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves with Kevin Costner
Costner, who plays the protagonist, and Freeman, who plays warrior Azeem, visit the tree in the 1991 blockbuster
Jamie Driscoll, the mayor for North Tyne and Metro, said the damage was ‘an insult to the people of Northumberland’
Superintendent Kevin Waring said: ‘This is an incredibly sad day. The tree was iconic to the North East and enjoyed by so many who live in or who have visited this region.
‘As a Force, we are fully committed to finding out the full circumstances and we will consider every tactic at our disposal in this investigation.
‘Anyone found to have been responsible for this damage – which we believe to be a deliberate act of vandalism – can expect to be dealt with swiftly and appropriately.
‘I would ask anyone who saw anything suspicious or knows anything that can assist our investigation to get in touch with us.’
On land owned by the National Trust, it is also known as the Robin Hood Tree because it featured in a scene in the 1991 film Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves starring Kevin Costner.
It appeared in the music video for Bryan Adams’ Everything I Do, I Do It for You which featured on the film’s soundtrack and topped the charts for several months.
An undated picture of the tree at Sycamore Gap, at Hadrian’s Wall near Crag Lough, Northumberland, with the Northern Lights
The Sycamore Gap tree was a popular spot for photographers
Farmer Katie Smith, 25, said she spotted the tree on its side as she passed it on her way to work this morning.
She said: ‘I drive past the tree twice a day and I always look up at it but today I just saw it was gone.
‘Pictures taken of it look like someone has deliberately sawed it down. It’s an absolute tragedy. No one can believe it has been cut down.
‘There was a storm last night but it’s withstood worse. There is no way this is not vandalism. People around here are shocked.’
Andrew Benton, 45, added: ‘I’m outraged that someone has done this to such a beautiful tree. What the hell is the world coming to?’
Landscape and nature author Robert Macfarlane said: ‘I just feel sick.
‘I feel desperately sad about what it says about our wider relationship with trees and with nature in this country. And I feel very angry.’
He told BBC Radio 5 Live: ‘Just so many memories were stored in that tree and to see that white wood that a chainsaw ripped through at some point last night. I just despair really about the state of nature in this country.’
Jack Taylor, from Woodland Trust, told the programme: ‘If it’s been deliberately felled, as reports suggest, it’s totally unforgiveable.
‘And, I’m really struggling to think of a reason why anybody would do that. Honestly, it would have to be a disturbed individual to do something that deliberate and heinous.’
Mr Taylor said: ‘We’re completely devastated that this has happened.’
People on social media have expressed their upset and anger at the felling.
One person wrote: ‘I’m almost lost for words this morning on hearing that the beautiful sycamore tree at Sycamore Gap on Hadrian’s Wall has been deliberately felled overnight.
The stunning tree is on Hadrian’s wall world heritage site and attracts many tourists
The Sycamore Gap tree is one of the most photographed in the country. Overnight it was chopped down, with many people devastated
Sycamore Gap on Hadrian’s Wall, Northumberland, was made famous in the 1991 blockbuster film ‘Robin Hood Prince of Thieves’ starring Kevin Costner and Morgan Freeman
Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Kim McGuinness also expressed her sadness, writing on X: ‘I’m devastated that the famous Sycamore is gone’
An account called North East Tweets said: ‘ Those who cut down the Sycamore Gap tree, have committed an act of great cruelty’
‘What an absolutely disgusting act of mindless vandalism.’
Another said: ‘Somebody has taken a chainsaw to the one of our nation’s most beautiful sights. The Sycamore Gap tree on Hadrian’s Wall Path – Northumberland.
‘It was also the star of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Utterly appalling, police are investigating.’
An account called North East Tweets said: ‘Those who cut down the Sycamore Gap tree, have committed an act of great cruelty.
‘They have shown no regard for nature’s grace, and left a scar upon this sacred place.
‘Let those who cut down the sycamore tree, beware the wrath of nature, wild and free. For their evil deed will not be forgotten.’
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