Three overarching themes on Sycamore Gap’s legacy have emerged

Since the felling of the iconic Sycamore Gap tree in September last year, the National Trust and Northumberland National Park Authority have been working alongside Historic England, and The Hadrian’s Wall Partnership to ensure a fitting legacy for both nature and people following this act of vandalism. The response from the public has been nothing short of overwhelming, with over 2,000 heartfelt messages pouring in from every corner of the country, and overseas.

Over the last few months, the organisations have read each message, social media tribute, and on-site memorial received from the public. From these responses, three overarching themes on what the Sycamore Gap’s legacy should be, have emerged.

Building on these themes, the organisations have begun to create a series of initiatives designed to mark the legacy of the tree and engage communities at a local and national level.

Helping nature thrive

The organisations are looking to see how nature responds at the site. The original tree stump remains in situ, in the hope it will regrow in time. While we wait, there will not be another intervention at the site for now. To give the tree the best chance of regrowth, there is a need to protect the stump – without detracting from people’s experience of the site – and there is currently a low fence in place.

The theme of nature restoration and renewal came through strongly in the public’s response to the felling. The organisations are exploring new ways to support tree planting and habitat creation, with an initial focus on the Hadrian’s Wall landscape.

In December, the National Trust, as guardians of the tree, shared that they are closely monitoring the seeds and material collected from the original tree – which are being cared for at the charity’s specialist plant conservation centre.

Providing a place for reflection

For many people, the Sycamore Gap played a significant part in their lives and the organisations involved are committed to ensuring people can continue to build personal connections with this special place.

The largest section of the felled tree will find a new home on public view at The Sill: National Landscape Discovery Centre, close to Sycamore Gap, and this will provide people with a lasting connection to the tree. This will be in place by September 2024 and Northumberland National Park Authority will be announcing a creative commission in the coming weeks which will be working with local schools and seeking the views of the public.

An event, shaped by local voices, is proposed to commemorate the anniversary of the felling of the tree in September. Ideas can be shared by email to sycamoregap@nnpa.org.uk.

Working with artists

The organisations have been taking advice from specialists in woodwork and wood preservation. The felled tree was carefully cut into sections for removal from the site and since then, the timber has been treated and stored safely to ensure it can be repurposed in the future by artists, in collaboration with the public, including schools, community groups and individuals. A series of creative commissions will be announced over the coming months, and the public will again be asked to help shape these.

Tony Gates, Chief Executive Officer, Northumberland National Park Authority said:

“The felling of the Sycamore Gap tree has shown just how much nature and landscape mean to people, to their very wellbeing.

As stewards of the legacy of Sycamore Gap, the partners have been humbled by the outpouring of love and emotion for the tree. We understand the diversity of opinions surrounding a future legacy and are committed to navigating this journey with the utmost care and respect. We are grateful for everyone’s patience and understanding.

We are determined to honour the spirit of Sycamore Gap through opportunities to connect with the tree, and to create a legacy for both people and nature.”

Andrew Poad, General Manager for the National Trust at Hadrian’s Wall said:

“We have been incredibly grateful for the support and comments that we’ve received over the last five months – thank you to everyone who has been in touch. It’s been important for us to read through each and every one, and to take the time to think about how we respond in ways that are fitting to this landscape and to the people who loved this tree.

I have worked at Hadrian’s Wall for 35 years, and to hear about so many people’s personal connections to the tree – from marriage proposals to the scattering of ashes – has been a moving experience.

Over the course of this year, we’ll be sharing more ideas and more opportunities for our local communities to help us create a legacy for the people of Northumberland, and beyond.”