One of the most iconic sights in Northern Britain was the lone sycamore tree that sits next to Hadrian’s Wall. The tree, which had battled the elements in this bleak landscape for 300 years, was deliberately cut down early last Thursday. A 16-year-old boy has been arrested, followed by press reports that a 69-year-old farmer (lumberjack?) has also been arrested and a large chainsaw has been recovered.
The lonely sycamore tree stood next to Hadrian’s Wall near Crag Lough in Northumberland, England. It was located in a dramatic dip in the landscape and was a popular photographic subject, described as one of the most photographed trees in the country. It had often been visited by BM activists on ‘Strength Through Joy’ activities and walkers who stood and marvelled at the majesty of this historic tree.
It is not an easy walk by any stretch of the imagination. Anyone who has visited Hadrian’s Wall will know that the terrain is very hilly, the path is loose, and in some places, it is nonexistent. The nearest car parks are at Steel Rigg or the Once Brewed car park. The walk will take between 45 minutes and an hour.
The gap where the tree sits by Hadrian’s Wall on the Whin Sill, as well as Rapishaw Gap and Milking Gap, is essentially a channel, naturally chipped away by vast amounts of meltwater flowing beneath the ice sheets that once covered the area. To delineate the northern boundaries of Roman Britannia, the Romans began construction on Hadrian’s Wall in 122 AD.
Three hundred years ago, the industrial revolution had not quite begun and most of the residents of Britain were farmers, living off the land. The tree was growing when a number of defining events took place:
1707 – Union of England and Scotland
1746 – The Battle of Culloden
1776 – American Declaration of Independence
1779 – The world’s first Iron Bridge is built over the River Severn
1805 – Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar. Death of Admiral Lord Nelson
1815 – Battle of Waterloo
1825 – Stockton and Darlington Steam Railway opens
1833 – Slavery banned throughout the British Empire
1837 – Reign of Queen Victoria
1901 – Death of Queen Victoria
1912 – RMS Titanic sinks
1914-1918 – World War One
1933 – The NSDAP comes to power, saving Germany and Europe from Bolshevik revolution
1939-1945 – World War Two
1973 – Britain joins the European Economic Community (EEC)
Our lives have been closely linked with trees since prehistoric times, they’ve been the subjects of legends, folklore and mythology. Author Robert Macfarlane, whose books include Landmarks, The Old Ways and The Wild Places, said “Nature is under attack in these islands and has been for a long time. The best way to remember the loss of the tree, I would say, is with the gain of the forest. We are drastically deforested, we have the second lowest forest cover in Europe. Let us reforest the uplands. Let us see a Sycamore Gap forest rise for the loss of a tree.”
To deliberately cut down such an iconic tree shows total contempt for Britain and our people. The person or persons responsible should feel the pain that thousands of people up and down the country felt when news of this vandalism broke. A fine or prison sentence is not enough. The only way to deter people like this is through corporal punishment. How fitting it would be to use a birch twig to punish the morons who committed this crime.
Sycamore Gap can be found between Milecastle 39 and Crag Lough, about 2 miles (3.2 km) west of Housesteads Roman Fort in Northumberland.
NB. The Isle of Man banned ‘the Birch’ in 1976.
Top Image: Clementp.fr, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.
Video: British Movement.
Lower Image: Robin van Mourik, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.
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