November 30, 2023

The Sycamore Gap tree is being removed from its spot on Hadrian’s Wall after it was cut down by vandals two weeks ago.

On Thursday a crane will lift the 50-foot sycamore off the wall in Northumberland and it will be put into storage at a National Trust property – the location of which is not being disclosed for security reasons.

The felled sycamore, which because of its location had been one of the most photographed trees in the UK, must be removed to protect the 1,900-year-old Roman wall and make the site safe, according to the National Trust.

“Today we’re beginning the careful task of preparing the site, before the tree is lifted by crane tomorrow and transported to a safe location,” said Andrew Poad, the site’s general manager for the National Trust. “It’s currently in a precarious position resting on the wall, so it’s necessary we move it now, to preserve the world-famous monument that is Hadrian’s Wall, and to make the site safe again for visitors.”

It is not possible to lift the trunk in one piece so it will be sawn up, although conservationists want to keep the sections as large as possible. The tree stump is being left and protected by a temporary fence, with conservationists hoping that it will sprout new shoots. Seeds have also been collected in an effort to propagate the old tree.

According to a preliminary inspection by Historic England there was “some damage” to the wall when the tree fell. The public is being asked to stay away from the site as the tree is removed.

Sycamore Gap on Hadrian's Wall, Northumberland National Park near Haltwhistle
The tree at Sycamore Gap in Northumberland was a popular tourist spot before it was cut down by vandals. Photograph: Jim Holden/Alamy

Poad said they had been “amazed and inspired” by offers of help and good wishes from the public. He said: “It’s clear that this tree captured the imaginations of so many people who visited, and that it held a special – and often poignant – place in many people’s hearts.”

The question of what to do with the site is uncertain. Ideas put forward include making a memorial bench using the timber, or displaying a cross-section of the trunk that would allow people to see inside the original tree.

Poad said the trust was working with partners “to find the best way of paying tribute to this much-loved tree and involving the public in this process”.

“The nature of the site, which is designated by Unesco and is a scheduled ancient monument, means our plans must be carefully thought through. We kindly ask people to please bear with us while we consider what might be possible.”

Tony Gates, the chief executive officer of Northumberland National Park Authority, said: “The intention is to ensure that the tree is stored safely so that full consideration can be given to how best to use the tree in future.”

Kim McGuinness, the police and crime commissioner for Northumbria, said felling the tree was like “stealing joy”. Two arrests have been made in the search for those responsible, and a 16-year-old boy and man in his 60s remain on police bail as investigations continue.

Find more age of extinction coverage here, and follow biodiversity reporters Phoebe Weston and Patrick Greenfield on X (formerly known as Twitter) for all the latest news and features

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