Ancient English tree destroyed
A 300-year-old tree which famously featured in Robin Hood has been felled in a malicious act of vandalism.
The Sycamore Gap, along Hadrian's Wall in Northumberland, is one of the UK's most photographed trees.
But it was found chopped down on Thursday morning, with its upper section lying across the historic Roman barrier.
Walkers noticed how part of the tree appeared to have been marked with white paint, indicating someone may have felled it with a chainsaw.
It has sparked claims that the tree was vandalised by a 'professional' and the park authority believes it was deliberately chopped down.
Known to some as the Robin Hood Tree after its appearance in Kevin Costner's 1991 film, Sycamore Gap is one of the most photographed trees in the country.
It stands next to Hadrian's Wall near Crag Lough in Northumberland and is believed to have been planted in the early 18th century.
It is said to have once stood alongside others but eventually became the only one left - making it especially photogenic.
A Northumberland National Park Authority spokesman said: 'Northumberland National Park Authority can confirm that sadly, the famous tree at Sycamore Gap has come down over Thursday night. We have reason to believe it has been deliberately felled.
'We are working with the relevant agencies and partners with an interest in this iconic North East landmark and will issue more details once they are known.'
They added: 'It is not clear currently whether the tree is a victim of Storm Agnes or it is a deliberate act - though pictures indicate a clean and straight cut.'
Matt Brown, 37, of the Twice Brewed Brew Company nearby, was one of the first at the scene.
Mr Brown said: 'I was brewing when I heard a rumour that the tree at Sycamore Gap had been cut down and ran over to see what had happened.
'It was a quite a shock to see it lying there, that tree is a real icon and to those of us who were born in this area it really means something.
'It was certainly cut down with a chainsaw - and a big one. It looks as though it has been cut through with one stroke which means the blade must have been about two metres long.
'It was done overnight and seems to be a thought-out and planned act. But why anyone would choose to do such a thing is beyond me.
'There can't be anyone with such an issue against that particular tree that they walk a mile at night to go and saw it down, it's an act of malice but can only be for malice's sake.
'The tree can be seen from the old military road that passes by but to access it you have to climb over barbed wire and walk through marshy ground for a mile.
'I noticed also that the trunk had been marked at the spot where the cut was going to be made.
'This is someone who knows how to fell trees and made sure it toppled in the right direction, but it's hard to fathom why anyone would do this.'
The Sycamore Gap was voted English Tree of the Year in 2016 in the Woodland Trust's awards and is much-loved by people from across the world.