A 16-year-old boy has been arrested after the world-famous tree at Hadrian’s Wall in northeast England was chopped down overnight.
The 21-metre tall Sycamore Gap tree — one of the world’s most photographed and celebrated trees which was believed to date back to medieval times — stood in a dramatic dip in the hills near Crag Lough in Northumberland.
The iconic landmark was found felled early on Thursday morning, local time, The Sun reports.
Northumbria Police said a 16-year-old boy had been arrested on suspicion of causing criminal damage in connection with the felling of the tree.
The boy remains in custody and is assisting officers with their inquires, police said.
Police added that they believe the damage caused to the tree was a deliberate act of vandalism.
The tree notably appeared in the 1991 movie Robin Hood Prince of Thieves starring Kevin Costner and Morgan Freeman.
“This is a world-renowned landmark and the events of today have caused significant shock, sadness and anger throughout the local community and beyond,” said Superintendent Kevin Waring of Northumbria Police.
“An investigation was immediately launched following this vandalism, and this afternoon we have arrested one suspect in connection with our enquiries.
“Given our investigation remains at a very early stage, we are keeping an open mind.
“I am appealing to the public for information to assist us — if you have seen or heard anything suspicious that may be of interest to us, please let us know.”
Residents living nearby expressed their “outrage” at the felling of the tree, which is one of the most recognisable landmarks in the UK.
Farmer Katie Smith, 25, said she spotted the tree on its side as she passed it on her way to work on Thursday morning.
“I drive past the tree twice a day and I always look up at it but today I just saw it was gone,” she said.
“Pictures taken of it look like someone has deliberately sawed it down. It’s an absolute tragedy. No one can believe it has been cut down.
“There was a storm last night but it’s withstood worse. There is no way this is not vandalism. People around here are shocked.”
Andrew Benton, 45, added, “I’m outraged that someone has done this to such a beautiful tree. What the hell is the world coming to?”
The news also sparked fury on social media.
“Terribly sad to hear of the loss of this iconic, beautiful tree, which was the setting for my second book and a source of peace and inspiration to many,” author LJ Ross wrote on X.
“If this was an act of vandalism, I can only think that the person responsible is deeply unwell. It’s madness.”
Another user commented, “The correct punishment for this crime is hanging.”
The tree, which has inspired its own beer in the nearby Twice Brewed Inn, is one of the most photographed in the UK.
The Northumberland National Park Authority is asking the public not to visit the site “whilst we work with our partners to identify what has happened and to make the site safe”.
A spokesperson said, “We can confirm that sadly, the famous tree at Sycamore Gap has come down over night.
“We have reason to believe it has been deliberately felled.
“It is not clear currently whether the tree is a victim of Storm Agnes or it is a deliberate act — though pictures indicate a clean and straight cut.
“The location was once a popular photographic subject, and it was described as one of the most photographed trees in the country.
“We are working with the relevant agencies and partners with an interest in this iconic North East landmark and will issue more details once they are known.
“Sycamore Gap was voted English Tree of the Year in 2016 in the Woodland Trust’s awards and is much-loved by people from across the world.
“Northumberland National Park Authority would like to ask the public not to visit the site at this time whilst we work with our partners to identify what has happened and to make the site safe.”
The National Trust, which owns the land, said it was “shocked and saddened”.
“The tree has been an important and iconic feature in the landscape for nearly 200 years and means a lot to the local community and to anyone who has visited the site,” Andrew Poad, the trust’s general manager for Hadrian’s Wall and Tyne Valley, told Sky News.
One expert said it was unlikely the tree could be saved.
“Coppicing [where a tree is deliberately cut near to its base] is something used in the management of trees and is a traditional method,” John Parker, chief executive officer at The Arboricultural Association, told the broadcaster.
“But with a tree that old and a cut that big, the shock will probably kill what is left of the tree.
“There is a chance you might get shoots at the bottom — but the tree will never be able to re-establish itself to the way it was before.”
But Jon Stokes of The Tree Council said he remained hopeful.
“It is very difficult to know if it will survive for sure, as I haven’t seen it in person, but it’s worth having hope,” he told Sky News.
“At this time of year, trees begin to store energy in their roots for next year‘s growing season — and it is possible that the tree may grow some new shoots next spring.
“If they do appear, they will then take many decades to grow into a new tree — but there may be a chance.
“We won’t know for sure until next spring — and we will just need to keep our fingers firmly crossed.”
North of Tyne mayor Jamie Driscoll said it would be up to the National Trust to decide what to do with the tree.
“I have heard suggestions that the wood from the tree could be used to make some kind of monument,” he told Sky News.
“Whether it is possible to take a cutting or a graft from the tree and replant it, that will take an arborist with more technical skill than I have to come up with these suggestions — but certainly we will be doing something.”
— with The Sun