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New shoots expected to grow from Sycamore Gap tree but it ‘won’t be same again’

New shoots are expected to grow from the world-famous Sycamore Gap tree but it will never be the same again, experts have said.

The tree, next to Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland, was felled overnight on Thursday in what police believe was an act of vandalism.

A 16-year-old boy was arrested on suspicion of criminal damage and has since been released on bail pending further inquiries.

National Trust general manager Andrew Poad told BBC Breakfast the stump was “healthy” and staff might be able to coppice the tree, a technique allowing new shoots to grow from the base of a trunk.

He said: “It’s a very healthy tree, we can see that now, because of the condition of the stump, it may well regrow a coppice from the stump, and if we could nurture that then that might be one of the best outcomes, and then we keep the tree.”

Rob Ternent, head gardener at The Alnwick Garden in Northumberland, said the tree will start growing again but “won’t ever be the same shape or as good of a tree as it was”.

Forensic investigators from Northumbria Police visited the site on Hadrian's Wall
Forensic investigators from Northumbria Police visited the site on Hadrian’s Wall (Owen Humphreys/PA)

He told the PA news agency: “It’s worth a try but I think livestock and wildlife will potentially damage it as well. It’ll be very difficult to get it back to the original tree.

“The growing season’s coming to an end now but by spring next year it will have some life in it. It’ll probably be about eight foot tall, but it’ll be lots of singular branches, more bushy.

“It was about 300 years old so it’ll take a long time to get back to that size. It’s a massive shame.”

On Friday, a police presence was still at the site, with forensics officers taking measurements and samples from the remains and photographing the area.

One was heard saying: “In 31 years of forensics I’ve never examined a tree.”

The Sycamore Gap tree was made famous in a key scene in Kevin Costner’s 1991 film Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves and is one of the most photographed trees in the country.

The distinctive landmark with had stood for around 300 years
The distinctive landmark with had stood for around 300 years (Owen Humphreys/PA

Superintendent Kevin Waring, of Northumbria Police, said on Thursday: “This is a world-renowned landmark and the events of today have caused significant shock, sadness and anger throughout the local community and beyond.”

The sycamore, which stood in a dramatic dip in Hadrian’s Wall and is believed to have been around 300 years old, was looked after by Northumberland National Park Authority and the National Trust.

The National Trust said it was “shocked and saddened” to confirm that the “iconic” tree had been cut down overnight after pictures emerged on Thursday morning of it lying on its side near the ancient Roman wall, which is a Unesco World Heritage site.

The news was met with dismay and outrage by walkers’ groups on social media.

Walker Alison Hawkins, who was one of the first people to see the tree had been felled on Thursday morning, told the PA news agency: “It was a proper shock. It’s basically the iconic picture that everyone wants to see.”

Sycamore Gap tree felled
The tree was cut down overnight (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Si King, one half of the Hairy Bikers TV duo along with fellow chef Dave Myers, said it was “very distressing” to see the “wanton vandalism” of the tree.

The North-Easterner said he did not believe it could be replaced.

He told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme: “I couldn’t believe what I was looking at – an iconic totem of the North East and of Northumberland had been felled.

“There was just this moment of complete and utter disbelief. It was a huge sense of loss, in essence.”

An online crowdfunding page set up by Northumberland business Alncom for the “rejuvenation of Sycamore Gap” has raised more than £1,700, but the National Trust and National Park Authority have yet to confirm plans for the site.

A National Trust spokesperson said: “We’re very grateful for all the offers of support we’ve received – from people in the North East and much further afield. It is clear this tree was special to many, many people.

“Currently, we are focussed on making the site safe, and helping staff and the community come to terms with the news.

“We will be working with Northumberland National Park, other partners and the local community to consider plans for the site and the tree in the future, and we will inform people as soon as we know.”