A tree makes news! How beautiful, how sad. I am of course referring to the sawing down of the tree in Sycamore Gap along Hadrian’s Wall. A tree made famous by its inclusion in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991) with Kevin Costner as the outlaw. It was voted tree of the year in 2016 in the Woodland Trust Award.
We had our own tree death a few years ago, when the 130 year old yew was hewn down to make way for the Gateway estate next door. We knew it was going and we protested. To no avail. First they chopped off all the lower side branches, so it looked like a giant lollipop, and we hoped they might stop there. But no, they came back with their chain saws and finished it off.
In the end, we reluctantly agreed the reason for that one. People have to live somewhere, but the tree in Sycamore Gap, what oh what was the vandal thinking? An ‘up yours’ to the establishment, a desire to be made significant by killing something loved, voices telling him of its wickedness? One can only surmise.
The tree is thought to have been planted in the 1720s, the time of George I and the South Sea Bubble, a slave trading company that sucked in the money of too many people who should have known better. But a tree is ignorant of such wickedness.
A tree growing on its own will grow symmetrically, unlike those in a forest which are competing for light and resources with other trees and so become lopsided in the compromises. The sycamore in the gap stood out in its symmetry, a lone tree for walkers to picnic under, for marriage proposals to be made, for poets to jot lines under, for children to climb. But it has gone. The roots will throw up suckers which in a 100 years could make a decent tree, but the gap won’t be filled in our lifetime.
We have our own sycamore by the side gate. I like it: for its canopy, for its shelter for birds, for its helicopter seeds and the ebullience life in it. Some decry it for all the seeds that sprout around the garden, but I think they are easy enough to pull out. Like a child, love it for what it is.
by Joyce Kilmer
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
SOURCE: Poetry(August 1913).
There’s beautiful rendition sung by Paul Robeson here: