Hadrian's Wall was built under the instructions of the Roman emperor Hadrian. It stretched from The North Sea in the east to the Solway Firth in the west, covering some eighty four miles. It marked the very edge of The Roman Empire and was also intended to keep out unwanted visitors and warriors from the land we now call Scotland.
The wall rises and falls, clinging to the landscape in terrain that remains challenging to this day. It was an ambitious project that took around six years to complete but it did not function as intended for very many years. After Hadrian's death a new but less imposing wall was built further north called The Antonine Wall.
I remind myself at this point that when I sat down to create this blogpost, I did not intend to write a potted history of Hadrian's Wall. That is just background context for my reflections upon a beautiful sycamore tree that hugged the wall at a point where the base geology had formed a significant dip in the land.
They say that the tree was around three hundred years old. It was disease-free and had every prospect of thriving for another three hundred years. It had found a perfect niche - partly sheltered and well-watered. Lonesome but strong.
People loved that iconic tree. They felt connected to it and countless photos were taken at Sycamore Gap. Marriage proposals were made there and the tree even featured in the film "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves".
And then in the dead of night just last week the tree was cut down with a chain saw. The tree crashed to the ground. People all over this kingdom shared a sense of sadness mingled with utter disbelief. Why would anyone do such a thing?
A sixteen year old youth and a man in his sixties were arrested, charged and later bailed. If they have any reasons to explain their vandalism we have not yet heard them. Something died in all of us when they murdered beauty. Personally, I hope that for the rest of their lives they will be known as the men who chopped down the iconic tree and that that reputation will follow them to their graves.
Below - the sycamore tree and Sycamore Gap seen via Google Streetview from the nearby "B" road...