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A look back at Sycamore Gap…

As many of us are still reeling from the news that the ancient tree along Hadrian’s Wall was deliberately felled on Wednesday night, we reflect on its history, the famous faces that have sat by its roots, and just what it meant to us here in the North East.

Written by Becky Hardy
Published 30.09.2023

Many of you will have no doubt been deeply saddened by the news that broke early on Thursday morning that the ancient tree at Sycamore Gap along Hadrian’s Wall had been deliberately felled in an appalling act of vandalism.

The tree had become a timeless symbol of the North East’s natural beauty and an icon of the Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site. Indeed, such was its beauty and astounding resilience that it attracted visitors the world over to Northumberland so they could see it for themselves.

While we’re not about the comment on the ongoing investigation into the events that actually transpired on Wednesday night (we’ll leave that to the police), Team HLN all found ourselves moved by the loss of what was so much more than a tree.

So, we’ve been inspired to share a little of its history, a few of the famous faces that have sat by its roots, and some of our favourite photographic memories from the walks we’ve taken ourselves to this glorious part of Northumberland.



The origins of Sycamore Gap

Believed to be one of the most photographed trees in the British Isles, the single sycamore tree that famously grew in a dramatic dip between two hills along Hadrian’s Wall was said to date back to medieval times.

It’s believed that there were once other sycamores growing alongside this sole survivor, which were possibly removed by the gamekeepers of the past.

It was a National Trust employee who first came up with the name ‘Sycamore Gap’ when the area was being mapped. The Trust now own the wall and land on which the tree stood.

The tree has formed part of the designated UNESCO World Heritage Site at Hadrian’s Wall since it was designated in 1987.


Purveyor of secrets

The area surrounding the tree at Sycamore Gap has been excavated on two separate occasions: once, between 1908 and 1911, and again between 1982 and 1987.

Roman remains associated with Hadrian’s Wall were found lying among its roots, including a stone oven and a rectangular building.

Sycamore Gap on the silver screen

The tree garnered worldwide attention – and its second nickname of ‘the Robin Hood tree’ – back in 1991, when it provided one of the settings for the blockbuster film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, which starred Kevin Costner, Morgan Freeman and Alan Rickman. It also appeared in Bryan Adams’ music video for the single ‘(Everything I Do) I Do It For You’, which appeared on the film’s soundtrack.

On the smaller screen, Sycamore Gap has made an appearance in TV crime drama Vera, and in documentaries More Tales from Northumberland with Robson Green and British Isles – A Natural History with Alan Titchmarsh.


Modern memories at Sycamore Gap

This quirky spot along Hadrian’s Wall has long been a star attraction for hardcore hikers, weekend walkers, stargazers and nature lovers alike to tick off their bucket lists.

It’s safe to say the tree has seen its fair share of proposals and Northern Lights displays.

Little wonder, then, that in 2016 Sycamore Gap was named the English Tree of the Year in the Woodland Trust’s awards.


For 100 years, the Northumberland & Newcastle Society (one of the oldest in the country), has worked to preserve the heritage, culture and landscape of the city and county.

Tim Wickens, Trustee of the Society, has shared his feelings on the shocking events of Wednesday night.

I’m truly tearful having just seen the images and reporting on the world-famous tree at Sycamore Gap on Hadrian’s Wall apparently being deliberately felled last night.

“If it transpires this was deliberate, it really is an outrageous and despicable act of vandalism that will shock people everywhere. It is beyond belief that anyone would consciously seek to destroy such a timeless symbol of the North East’s natural beauty and an icon of the Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site.

“I would urge anyone with useful information to contact the Police immediately to help them find those responsible for this awful crime.”


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