Second man arrested over felling of much-loved tree near Hadrian’s Wall

Environment

Hours after a 16-year-old was freed on bail, Northumbria Police said a man in his 60s was arrested and is being questioned in custody.

A forensic investigator from Northumbria Police photographs the felled Sycamore Gap tree, in Northumberland, England, Friday Sept. 29, 2023. A 16-year-old boy has been arrested on suspicion of causing criminal damage in connection with the cutting down of one of the UK’s most photographed trees. (Owen Humphreys/PA via AP) AP

LONDON (AP) — British police on Friday made their second arrest over the cutting down of a 300-year-old tree near the Roman landmark of Hadrian’s Wall in the northeast of England.

Hours after a 16-year-old was freed on bail, Northumbria Police said a man in his 60s was arrested and is being questioned in custody.

“The senseless destruction of what is undoubtedly a world-renowned landmark, and a local treasure, has quite rightly resulted in an outpouring of shock, horror and anger throughout the North East and further afield,” Detective Chief Inspector Rebecca Fenney-Menzies said:

“I hope this second arrest demonstrates just how seriously we’re taking this situation, and our ongoing commitment to find those responsible and bring them to justice,” she added.

The 16-year-old boy was arrested on Thursday on suspicion of criminal damage after the tree was destroyed overnight.

Why anyone would want to cut down one of England’s most iconic trees has left people across the U.K. baffled and angry.

Robert Macfarlane, a renowned nature writer, said he was “sick to the core” to hear the news about the tree, which was “known and loved by millions.”

“I just see this as part of a piece with a much broader hostile environment towards the living world in this country,” he told BBC radio. “It was a tree that ashes were scattered under, marriages were made under, and it was a shelter for tired walkers.”

Macfarlane said he was buoyed by the widespread disgust that followed news of the tree’s felling and suggested that a new forest be planted in its honor.

Following centuries of industrialization and urbanization, Britain is considered to be one of the most deforested countries in Europe.

The tree was one of the main landmarks along Hadrian’s Wall, a UNESCO World Heritage Site built nearly 2,000 years ago when Britain was part of the Roman Empire to guard its northwestern frontier.

For generations, walkers have paused to admire and photograph the tree at Sycamore Gap, which was made famous when it appeared in Kevin Costner’s 1991 film “Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves.”

The National Trust, which for more than 125 years has sought to protect England’s heritage and natural landscapes, said it is currently “making the site safe, and helping staff and the community come to terms with the news.”

The tree, which was cut down near the base of its trunk, could grow again, experts said, though they cautioned that it would never be the same.

“It’s worth a try but I think livestock and wildlife will potentially damage it as well,” said Rob Ternent, head gardener at The Alnwick Garden nearby. “It’ll be very difficult to get it back to the original tree.”

Ternent said that the first shoots of recovery could start to appear in the spring, and the tree could get to be about 8 feet (2.4 meters) tall, though it will be bushy.

“It was about 300 years old, so it’ll take a long time to get back to that size,” he added.


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