Vandal Cuts Down World Famous Robin Hood Tree

robin hood's tree in sycamore gap

Mindlessly felled. Credit: national trust

It’s not often that a tree makes the news, but when a sycamore that’s stood next to Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, for several centuries is unceremoniously felled it makes the news worldwide

The tree, owned by the National Trust, stood proud and alone in the spectacular wild landscape of Northumberland and was one of the most photographed in the world. It earned the nickname ‘Robin Hood’s Tree’ after appearing prominently in the 1991 film, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, with Keven Kostner and Alan Rickman. It also made cameo appearances in the crime series Vera and in 2016 it won The Woodland Trust’s title of Tree of the Year.

On Thursday morning the sorry sight of the mighty tree down was discovered; it had been chainsawed through the trunk near ground level and toppled. Northumberland police have arrested a sixteen-year-old youth in connection with the crime and believe it was an act of deliberate vandalism. A local photographer, Ian Sprout was on the scene to take photos of the sorry sight.

The area where it stood, known as Sycamore Gap, lies between Milecastle 30, a waypoint on the famous Roman wall, and Crag Lough about 3km west of Housesteads Fort. Hadrian’s Wall follows the Whin Sill cliff edge at this point and the tree was settled in a natural dip caused by melting glacial waters; a location that made for spectacular photographs.

Robin Hood’s Tree has been threatened before, most notably in 2003 when a helicopter hired by a TV film crew filming British Isles: A Natural History, crashed nearby, narrowly avoiding both the tree and Alan Titchmarsh.  In 2015 English Heritage issued a warning about illegal metal detecting, known as Nighthawking, going on around the base of the tree which could damage it.

Time will tell whether the youth arrested is actually the culprit, but what the world will want to know is – why. Why would anyone cut down such a magnificent tree that has graced the landscape for so long, and brought moments of pleasure and contemplation to so many who passed beneath its boughs, becoming one of the most photographed and beloved trees in the world? It seems to defy logic, but the one undeniable truth is that the landscape and society is the poorer for its loss.

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Written by

Emma Mitchell

Emma landed in journalism after nearly 30 years as an executive in the Internet industry. She lives in Bédar and her interests include raising one eyebrow, reckless thinking and talking to people randomly. If you have a great human interest story you can contact her on