Response to Sycamore Gap tree felling “inspiring”

The iconic Sycamore Gap tree is set to be moved from Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland, after it was felled in an act of vandalism a fortnight ago.

The 50-foot tree, which had stood in the historic landscape for nearly 200 years, will be carefully moved by crane and taken to a National Trust property where it will be safely stored.

The lone sycamore was a ‘must see’ for thousands of visitors to the area each year and was regarded by many in Northumberland and the north east of England as an emblem of the region. Situated in a dramatic dip in the landscape, it became a favourite spot for photographers and walkers alike.

Since news of its felling broke almost a fortnight ago, the National Trust, which owns the site, and Northumberland National Park have received thousands of tributes, messages and suggestions for the site and the felled tree.

Andrew Poad, the site’s General Manager for the National Trust said: “We’ve been amazed and inspired by the offers of help and good wishes we’ve received from here in Northumberland, around the UK, and even from overseas. 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.

“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. It’s currently in a precarious position resting on the wall, so it’s necessary we move it now, both to preserve the world-famous monument that is Hadrian’s Wall, and to make the site safe again for visitors. We’ve explored every option for moving the tree and while it isn’t possible to lift it in one go, as the tree is multi-stemmed with a large crown, we have aimed to keep the trunk in as large sections as possible, to give us flexibility on what the tree becomes in future.

“We’re encouraging people to stay away from the site while these complex and difficult operations take place.”

Andrew continued: “Over the coming weeks, we will work with partners such as Northumberland National Park 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.

“We would like to thank everyone who has contacted us, donated, or offered their help and support – we are overwhelmed by the generosity.”

During the past fortnight, seeds from the tree have been collected by the National Trust and are being looked after by the charity’s specialist propagators at its Plant Conservation Centre. And a temporary fence has been installed to protect the tree’s stump, which the charity says may begin to sprout new shoots in time.

Mike Innerdale, the National Trust’s Regional Director for the North of England, said: “In many ways, this hardy sycamore, that withstood the elements for so many years, was a symbol of nature’s resilience. Sadly, that resilience is being worn away as nature in the UK becomes increasingly fragile and fragmented. We want to see that change, and we will continue to do everything we can to play our part in nature’s recovery.

“The outpouring we’ve seen shows just how important the connection is between people and nature in its many forms, and as we consider plans for this special tree, and this very special place, we’ll also look to harness that support for trees, landscapes and nature all across the country, and use the sycamore as a symbol of recovery.”

Tony Gates, Chief Executive Officer, Northumberland National Park Authority said: “Northumberland National Park Authority has been working with the National Trust since the deliberate felling of Sycamore Gap almost two weeks ago. We understand how difficult this time has been, not only for everyone who has felt shock, sadness and anger at what happened, but for considering what are the right decisions going forward.

“There have been some challenging scenarios for the National Trust to consider around the historic environment and the safety of the site, which have led to their decision to move the tree today. 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. We would like to thank everyone for their patience, and we will continue to work with the National Trust to ensure that in time, Sycamore Gap’s legacy lives on through a thriving landscape.”

Northumbria Police are continuing their investigation into the vandalism. Two males were arrested in connection with their enquiries and they remain on police bail.