The Sycamore Gap Tree, which was also known as the Robin Hood Tree, was a sycamore tree standing next to Hadrian’s Wall near Crag Lough in Northumberland, England. It was visible from the B6318 Military Road. Interestingly the name “Sycamore Gap” was introduced by a National Trust employee when the area was being mapped by the Ordnance Survey to describe its location.
Standing in a dramatic dip in the landscape, it was one of the most photographed and famous trees in the country. The tree was featured in the 1991 film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, from which it gained its alternative name. In reality, it was 170 miles from Sherwood Forest. It has also featured on TV shows including Vera and various documentaries.
In 2016 the tree won the England Tree of the Year award in the Woodland Trust’s Awards. The tree was a sycamore (acer pseudoplatanus) tree. Its location, with the historic wall and the hills as a backdrop, has made it a popular and iconic feature for the Northeast of England.
The Tree’s Origins and Demise
The Sycamore was planted in the late 19th century by John Clayton, a lawyer and the previous landowner. He was a keen excavator of Hadrian’s Wall. Over a period of 50 years, he worked to enhance the understanding of the construction of Hadrian’s Wall, as he was worried that it was being destroyed by people taking parts of the wall away to build other structures. From a wealthy family background, John owned five forts and about 20 miles of Hadrian’s Wall, ensuring they were under his protection.
The site was excavated between 1908 and 1911 and then also between 1982 and 1987. Located in a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the land and tree came into the care of the National Trust in the 1940s and is supported by the Northumberland National Park Authority.
It was felled in the early morning of 28 September 2023 in “an act of vandalism” which caused national outrage. In actual fact the Director of Robin Hood also expressed his views, calling the act “ugly”, “despicable” and “senseless” in a BBC article.
The Tree’s Future
The National Trust have since removed the trunk after workers cut off some of its branches using chainsaws. Due to its size, specialists had to cut it into large pieces and use a crane. It will now be stored in an undisclosed location before its fate is decided, and it is hoped the public can have a say.
Already, seeds from the tree have been collected and are being looked after by the National Trust’s specialist propagators at its Plant Conservation Centre.
Temporary fencing has been put in place to protect the stump, which could “begin to sprout new shoots in time”. The National Trust has advised people to “treat the stump with respect” as it considers its future, and it has encouraged people to share their ideas.
If you’d like to get in touch with suggestions for the future of the site and the tree, the National Trust has invited people to get in touch by emailing them at firstname.lastname@example.org.