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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Kevin Rawlinson

Remains of Sycamore Gap tree moved to secret site over trophy hunter fears

A man wearing hi-vis clothes cuts through the tree with a chainsaw
Work takes place this month to remove the Sycamore Gap tree after it was felled. Photograph: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images

The tree that once graced and gave its name to Sycamore Gap has been cut up and its pieces held at a secret location because of fears it will go the way of the Berlin Wall, chunks of which were looted by trophy hunters, the National Trust has said.

Police have reportedly caught several people trying to take pieces of the wood, while several legitimate attempts to claim it for purposes such as making artworks have also been made.

The tree was felled one night in late September to much public anger. Kim McGuinness, the Northumbria police and crime commissioner, likened the incident to “stealing joy”.

The tree stood next to Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland, in a natural dip in the landscape caused by meltwater flowing beneath ice sheets that once covered the area. It featured in the 1991 film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and, owing to the beauty of the spot, was said to be one of the most photographed tree in the UK.

Two men have been arrested and bailed in connection with the incident.

A man from Newcastle placed a sapling at the site in an attempt to “restore people’s faith in humanity”, but it was quickly removed by the National Trust. It is a criminal offence to damage a Unesco world heritage site and the National Trust was keen to discourage any other would-be planters.

People walk and have picnics near Sycamore Gap on a bright, sunny day
Sycamore Gap, pictured in June. Photograph: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images

According to the Sunday Times, sources said there were concerns within the National Trust that the storage facility where the tree was being held could turn into an unofficial “shrine”.

Jane Gibson, the chair of the Hadrian’s Wall Partnership, told the paper: “The wood from the tree has been taken away and stored for safekeeping at a secure location. There were concerns people were taking pieces of it for mementoes, like what happened with the Berlin Wall, when people would take a piece as a keepsake. It is now being safely stored as we work on potential future uses for the timber.”

Earlier this month, Andrew Poad, the member of National Trust staff responsible for the site, said the tree had been left in a “precarious position resting on the wall”, and that it was necessary to move it immediately to “preserve the world-famous monument that is Hadrian’s Wall, and to make the site safe again for visitors”.

An examination of the wall showed it had been damaged by the tree’s fall.

The Sunday Times reported that several artists had asked if they could create sculptures from the wood. “If it can be made with wood, then, believe you and me, somebody has put it forward as an idea,” a National Trust source told the paper.

Poad said: “It’s clear that this tree captured the imaginations of so many people who visited … and that it held a special, and often poignant, place in many people’s hearts.”

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