If you think of how many trees are famous; there are quite a few of them but compared to the countless billions of trees on the planet they are really few and far between. Some famous trees are no longer here such as the cherry tree that George Washington cut down or the famous Californian Redwood tree that you could pass through until a storm brought it down in 2017.
Some trees are famous for the longevity and many of these trees with longevity have historical tie-ins such as the Burning Bush which I once saw in Egypt, the Glastonbury Thorn tree or the Major Oak tree in Sherwood forest where Robin Hood is said to have hid and I’ve been fortunate to see them all.
Last week however I embarked on a trek along Hadrians Wall to raise money for Cancer Research in memory of my mother, Susan. Most people do this walk in 6 to 8 or even 10 days but I decided to do mine in 4, allowing another day for a for a few diversions along the way. The one thing I hadn’t planned for and neither did anyone else I encountered was that it has been unusually dry, warm and even hot.
Walking 20-25 miles a day over the rugged moors in the heat was actually totally fine, if only there had been more water around. Most people do a bit of training for this walk but as I walk all day, most days I didn’t think that would be a problem and in fact I never got passed along the way so I did ok.
One of the highlights of the walk was the rugged central section and one place in particular, Sycamore Gap. Sycamore Gap is one of several gaps such as Rapishaw Gap and Milking Gap – along Hadrian’s Wall which sits on an imposing geological site known as the Whin Sill. These gaps are essentially channels, naturally chipped away by vast amounts of meltwater flowing beneath the ice sheets that once covered the area.
This section of Hadrian’s Wall is quite telling as it informs us about the Romans and how intuitive they were when they constructed it many moons ago, staggering and layering the brickwork along the landscape. The Wall surrounding the gap shows it was repaired with lime mortar and the construction deposits sealed pottery datable to the late 2nd-century.
Though impressive as Hadrian’s Wall was, the Romans weren’t the only people to leave a mark on this landscape, evidence of a Bronze Age boundary wall lie a few hundred feet South of Sycamore Gap suggesting the area has been important throughout history and used long before the Romans ruled.
Various research carried out over the years tells us that there would have been more trees within proximity to the gap and that there could be numerous reasons for having them removed; game shooting, landscape views, or perhaps a clear vista to see anyone approaching.
I pretty much knew where Sycamore Gap was, having driven past it several times but it was still something of a highlight to see this famous old tree.
Nowadays, the tree has become something of a star. Most notably as the scene-stealer in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves starring Kevin Costner, TV series Vera starring Brenda Blethyn and Robson Green’s More Tales from Northumberland.
Of course, the Robin Hood scene was filmed there for its dramatic beauty as in real life it would make no sense at all for him to land near the Seven Sisters on the South Coast and somehow in one day travel hundreds of miles to Nottingham and somehow arriving at Hadrians Wall to camp the night only to do a U-Turn and come back south to Sherwood Forest. It would be rather like someone from Mexico camping at Niagra Falls on the way to Kansas City.
Anyway, I thought this beautiful local might be packed with onlookers but happily like so much of the wall walk, I had it all to myself.
I’ve nearly made my donations target. If you have a few pennies to spare then no matter where in the world you are, please consider donating through the link below.