Hadrian's Wall sycamore tree suspect released on bail

Historic 300-year-old landmark was discovered cut down on Thursday and 16 year old arrested

Forensic investigators from Northumbria Police examine the felled Sycamore Gap tree, on Hadrian's Wall in Northumberland.  PA Wire
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A teenager accused of chopping down a historic sycamore tree at Hadrian's Wall has been released on bail by the police.

The 16-year-old boy was arrested on Thursday on suspicion of criminal damage over the felling of a 300-year-old sycamore tree near the Roman landmark in the north of England.

Police on Friday said the youth had now been released on bail.

The tree was a prominent landmark along Hadrian’s Wall, a Unesco World Heritage Site built nearly 2,000 years ago when Britain was part of the Roman Empire to guard its north-western frontier.

For generations, walkers have paused to admire and photograph the tree at Sycamore Gap, which was made famous when it appeared in Kevin Costner’s 1991 film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.

The sycamore, which stood in a dramatic dip in Hadrian’s Wall, was looked after by Northumberland National Park Authority and the National Trust.

The National Trust said it was “shocked and saddened” to confirm that the tree had been cut down.

It said it is currently “making the site safe, and helping staff and the community come to terms with the news”.

“We will be working with Northumberland National Park, other partners and the local community to consider plans for the site and the tree in the future, and we will inform people as soon as we know.”

The tree, which was cut down near the base of its trunk, could grow again, experts said, although they said that it would never be quite the same.

“It’s worth a try, but I think livestock and wildlife will potentially damage it as well," said Rob Ternent, head gardener at The Alnwick Garden near by. “It’ll be very difficult to get it back to the original tree.”

Mr Ternent said that the first shoots of recovery could start to appear in the spring, and the tree could get to be about 2.4m in height, although it will be bushy.

“It was about 300 years old, so it’ll take a long time to get back to that size," he added.

Robert Macfarlane, a renowned nature writer, said he was “sick to the core” to hear the news about the tree, which was “known and loved by millions”.

“I just see this as part of a piece with a much broader hostile environment towards the living world in this country,” he told BBC radio.

“It was a tree that ashes were scattered under, marriages were made under, and it was a shelter for tired walkers.”

On Friday, a police presence was still at the site, with forensics officers taking measurements and samples from the remains and photographing the area.

Updated: September 29, 2023, 11:41 PM