New life for the Sycamore Gap tree

Written on 03/17/2024
Mark Milligan

In September 2023, an act of vandalism felled the iconic sycamore tree at Whin Sill Gap on Hadrian’s Wall.

Known as the Sycamore Gap tree, the tree has grown on the Roman frontier fortification for hundreds of years between Milecastle 39 and Crag Lough, about 1.9 miles west of Houseteads Roman Fort.

It was planted in the late 1800s by John Clayton, which then came under the care of the National Trust during the 1940’s.

The tree was featured in the 1991 movie, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, as well as the music video for the song, (Everything I Do) I Do It for You. In 2016, the tree won England’s Tree of the Year competition and came 7th in the 2017 European Tree of the Year.

Four people have been arrested over the vandalism, the first being a 16-year-old boy within hours of its felling, and then a man in his 60’s. Both were later informed that they would face no further action, however, two further men were arrested later that year and released on bail.

To create a lasting legacy for the Sycamore Gap Tree, the National Trust took seeds and cuttings to their Plant Conservation Centre.

In a press statement issued by the National Trust: “Several dozen seeds are now sprouting, having been planted in specially tested peat-free compost. We’ve also been using a variety of propagation methods to create genetically identical replicas of the tree.”

This was done using methods such as ‘budding’ and two forms of grafting – ‘whip and tongue’ and ‘apical wedge’ grafting.

“There’s a way to go before we have true saplings, we’ll be keeping everything crossed that these plants continue to grow stronger and can be planted out and enjoyed by many in the future,” said the National Trust.

The tree itself has been moved from Hadrian’s Wall and large sections have been placed in storage. The tree’s stump has been fenced off with the hope that new sprouts may begin to shoot over time, however, this could take up to three years to know if this will be possible.

The National Trust said: “We're working with the Northumberland National Park Authority, Historic England and Hadrian’s Wall Partnership to find the best way to honour the life of this much-loved tree.”

Header Image Credit : Shutterstock

Sources : National Trust - Our response to the felling of the Sycamore Gap tree