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  • Neel Sauer

The sycamore tree

The night of September the 27th was mild, but stormy. At one point during the night, we do not yet know exactly when, the infernal noise of a chainsaw filled the air. In less than twenty minutes a tree which took 300 years to grow was felled.

The tree stood at the Hadrian’s wall, a stone wall erected more than 2000 years ago which stretches the whole width of England from the Irish Sea to the North Sea, for more than 70 miles. It was originally built as a fortification of the Roman province of Britannia. One of the most picturesque spots along the wall is the Sycamore gap, a little ditch between 2 hills on which the Sycamore tree stood.

Sycamore trees have been native to the UK since 1500 and can grow to a height of about 35m with dense leaves and a broad rounded crown. It is also well known for its winged fruits known as samaras. The camouflage-looking bark is a distinctive feature for this tree.

The Sycamore tree is believed to have been one of the most photographed in the UK located in this idyllic spot along Hadrian’s wall, a UNESCO World heritage site. It was named the tree of the year in 2016 and became famous around the globe as it featured in the film “Robin Hood; Prince of Thieves” starring Kevin Costner, Morgan freeman and Alan Rickman.

The public outcry was loud across the kingdom. The National Trust, which manages the land where the tree stood, said it was “shocked and saddened” to learn of the news. Laura Charlton, who wrote a poem, an Ode to a Sycamore Tree, to try to capture the “recklessness of the actions and the sense of bereavement the locals are feeling.”

Two persons have been temporarily arrested by the police, a man in his 60s as well as a boy of 16. Both have since been released on bail.

Fundraising efforts are set up by well-wishers who want to see the area where the tree stood rejuvenated. Andrew Poad of the National Trust pointed to the health of the three as one reason to believe it could be regrown.

“It’s a very healthy tree,” he told BBC. “It may well regrow a coppice from the stump. And if we could nurture that, then that might be one of the best outcomes, and then we keep the tree.” But any effort to regrow the tree is likely to take hundreds of years, according to Mark Feather, UK estate manager for conservation charity, the Woodland Trust.

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