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Two charged over felling famous 150-year-old tree

Sycamore Gap tree

Source: Northumberland National Park

Two men have been charged with cutting down the beloved 150-year-old Sycamore Gap tree that toppled over on Hadrian’s Wall in northern England.

Daniel Graham, 38, and Adam Carruthers, 31, were charged with causing criminal damage and damaging the wall built in AD122 by Emperor Hadrian to guard the north-west frontier of the Roman Empire.

They were ordered to appear in Newcastle Magistrates’ Court on May 15.

The sycamore’s majestic canopy between two hills made it a popular subject for landscape photographers. Thought to have been planted somewhere between 1860 and 1890, it was voted “English Tree of the Year” in 2016.

After being featured in Kevin Costner’s 1991 film Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves, the tree also became a destination on the path along the wall, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The tree’s night-time felling last October caused widespread outrage as police tried to find the culprits behind what they called a deliberate act of vandalism.

Northumbria Police Superintendent Kevin Waring called it “an incredibly sad day” when the tree was found.

A hiker who was among the first people to see it lying on the ground expressed shock.

“It’s basically the iconic picture that everyone wants to see,” Alison Hawkins said at the time.

“You can forgive nature doing it, but you can’t forgive that.”

Graham and Carruthers were arrested in October and released on bail. It has taken authorities more than six months to bring charges against them.

Detective Chief Inspector Rebecca Fenney said she recognised “the strength of feeling in the local community and further afield” but cautioned people against speculation or comment that could affect the criminal case.

The National Trust, which owns the land where the tree stood, said it would take up to three years to see if new growth could sprout from the sycamore’s stump.

The trust hopes that about a third of the seeds and cuttings it collected from the tree can later be planted.

Last month, the Northumberland National Park said the largest section of the sycamore would go on display at The Sill, a tourist attraction near its original site, in September. The NNP said it hoped this would “provide people with a lasting connection to the tree”.

-with AAP

Topics: Scotland
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