Sycamore Gap: History of the centuries-old and famous Northumberland tree that has been deliberately felled - that narrowly avoided being destroyed in a helicopter crash 20 years ago

Sycamore Gap and Robin Hood's tree  on Hadrians Wall on a sunny day in Northumbria (Photo: Alexandra -
Sycamore Gap and Robin Hood's tree on Hadrians Wall on a sunny day in Northumbria (Photo: Alexandra -

Standing proud in a dip in the landscape along Hadrian’s Wall in the Northumberland National Park, the centuries-old sycamore was possibly the most photographed tree in Britain.

It appeared in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, detective drama Vera and in programmes presented by the likes of Alan Titchmarsh and Robson Green.

Now it has been deliberately felled with a chainsaw and Northumbria Police are investigating an incident of nature crime which has shocked the country.

Where was the Sycamore Gap Tree?

Its location is between Milecastle 30 and Crag Lough, 3km west of Housesteads Fort. The section of Hadrian’s Wall follows the Whin Sill cliff edge, and the dips are caused by melting glacial waters. The wall and land on which the tree stood are owned by the National Trust, one of whose employees came up with the name Sycamore Gap when the area was being mapped.

How old was it?

Hundreds of years. There were once other sycamores beside it, which were removed in the past, possibly by gamekeepers. It won Tree of the Year in 2016.

Has it been threatened before?

In 2003, during filming of British Isles – A Natural History, a helicopter hired by the TV crew crashed only 30 metres away, narrowly avoiding both the tree and presenter Alan Titchmarsh.

English Heritage issued a major warning in 2015 about nighthawking at Hadrian’s Wall – the crime of illegal metal detecting and digging at historic sites. However, they didn't specify which areas of the monument were being targeted, so it’s not known whether the tree was considered at risk.