An iconic tree, whose felling in a deliberate act of vandalism prompted outrage among nature lovers, celebrities and politicians is being stored in a secret location to protect it from souvenir hunters.
The trunk of the majestic Sycamore Gap maple, which became a tourist attraction, film location and a symbol of hope to many, was removed from where it once stood on Hadrian’s Wall on 13 October as people keen to secure a piece of history were caught by police trying to steal pieces of it.
"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, Lady Jane Gibson, chairwoman of the Hadrian’s Wall Partnership, told The Sunday Times.
"It is now being safely stored [by The National Trust] as we work on potential future uses for the timber."
Much photographed and painted, the lone sycamore was considered one of the most famous trees in the world and an emblem for the North East of England. It was situated in a dramatic dip in the Northumberland landscape.
The tree was believed to date back to medieval times and has been excavated on two previous occasions between 1908 and 1911 and again between 1982 and 1987, when Roman remains linked to Hadrian’s Wall – a Unesco World Heritage Site – were found.
The sycamore perhaps first became known around the globe after featuring in the film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, starring Kevin Costner, Morgan Freeman and Alan Rickman.
Police investigating the incident, which they described as a “deliberate act of vandalism”, have made arrests although no one has yet been charged for the felling of the tree, which prompted fundraising campaigns across the country to help replace it.
Former lumberjack Walter Renwick, 69, who was arrested two days after the tree was cut down and later released on bail has protested his innocence, claiming “he would get less hassle if he had committed murder”.
He said has taken to wearing a blonde Rod Stewart wig to hide his identity due to anger over the much-loved Northumberland tree’s destruction last month.
Opinion among experts about whether the tree could be regrown was divided and the National Trust earlier this month asked the public for ideas on how best to use the wood to pay tribute to the tree, with options such as making it into a sculpture or a bench, either of which could be placed where the tree once stood, or making it into pencils.
The National Trust, a charity for heritage conservation in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, previously said it had been overwhelmed by the support and offers of help from members of the public, many of whom paid tribute to the 50ft tall sycamore.
A woman wrote an ode to honour the maple, describing it as a “sentinel of time. Laura Charlton, says she wrote the poem, an Ode to a Sycamore Tree, to try to capture the “recklessness of the actions and the sense of bereavement the locals are feeling.”
Chef Si King, of the Hairy Bikers, was among the celebrities to express his grief and outrage at the felling of the tree, saying the culprit had “murdered” an “elemental spirit of Northumberland”.