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Northumberland: National Trust says seedlings from felled Sycamore Gap tree have sprouted

Northumberland: National Trust says seedlings from felled Sycamore Gap tree have sprouted

Seedlings have sprouted from Sycamore Gap, giving the first signs of life at the site since the world famous tree was unlawfully felled last year.

The tree had stood for hundreds of years along Hadrian’s Wall in the Northumberland National Park and had been seen in the 1991 film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.

It was felled in September in an act of vandalism. Three arrests were made and an investigation is continuing.

The National Trust, which manages the park, said on Saturday that a conservation team was able to cultivate about 45 seedlings from the seeds and twigs salvaged.

Since the felling, experts have used a range of techniques to cultivate the material. These include ‘budding’, where a single bud from the original tree is attached to a rootstock of the same species, and two forms of grafting - ‘whip and tongue’ and ‘apical wedge’ grafting - where a scion (a cutting from the tree) and a rootstock are joined together by corresponding cuts in the material.

These processes are designed to create genetically identical replicas of the original Sycamore Gap tree.

 (National Trust)
(National Trust)

Andrew Jasper, director of gardens and parklands at the National Trust, said: “These techniques, delivered with a remarkable degree of care and precision by our conservationists, are providing a legacy for this much-loved tree.

“And while there’s a way to go before we have true saplings, we’ll be keeping everything crossed that these plants continue to grow stronger and can be planted out and enjoyed by many in the future.

“The response to the Sycamore Gap tree’s felling has been extraordinary, and we hope that by continuing to share its story, we can raise awareness of the cultural and natural significance of these majestic trees that we’re so lucky to have in the UK.”

The trust, working together with Northumberland National Park, Historic England and the Hadrian's Wall Partnership, said its plans for the plants were still developing, and that saplings wouldn’t be ready to be planted out for at least 12 months.

Sycamore Gap was one of the most recognisable trees in the UK (PA Archive)
Sycamore Gap was one of the most recognisable trees in the UK (PA Archive)

In the meantime, the trust will work with local schools, tree planting initiatives in Northumberland, and artistic interpretations.

Tony Gates, chief executive officer, of Northumberland National Park Authority said: “I was at Sycamore Gap in the immediate hours following the felling of the tree, managing the unfolding story as it happened and responding to the media.

“Whilst all of that was taking place, a team from the National Trust arrived to collect seed and other material from the tree. The seed did not appear to be mature enough and the chances of success appeared slim, but the idea of a direct link from the tree, at the time of it being felled, was a powerful one.”