This article originally appeared as John McNee's Letter from the Editor in Forestry Journal's October 2023 edition.

IF you ever wanted evidence of the emotion that can be stirred by a single tree, witness the outcry over the loss of the iconic specimen at Sycamore Gap.

Brought down by persons unknown* (though police were reported to have made an arrest as Forestry Journal went to press), the felling of this beloved and much-photographed veteran tree (called a ‘sentinel of time’ by some) has provoked a wave of sadness and righteous fury across the nation.

READ MORE: Sycamore Gap: It's okay to grieve at sight of tree's demise

Social media has been awash with outpourings of grief, paintings, photographs, stories, memories and more.

Poet Robert Macfarlane called its destruction an attack on nature and said the uplands should be planted with a new forest in its memory (easier said than done, Robert).

The professional forestry community was similarly incensed although, as despicable as the act itself may be, it’s hard not to have some small admiration for the skills on display. As many pointed out, the gob was correct, the hinge bang on, and the trunk fell where intended. Whoever did the deed appears to have known what they were up to.

Felling is, as we all know, an extremely dangerous job – and increasingly so.

In the last month, two of Forestry Journal’s own correspondents have had narrow brushes with death while at work.

Forestry Journal: Sycamore Gap's felling prompted a major police investigationSycamore Gap's felling prompted a major police investigation

For Danny Graham, it was bearing witness while an inexperienced colleague almost met their end, while the author behind A Voice from the Woods ended up in hospital after dicing with a particularly deadly diseased ash. Proof positive that even experienced hand cutters who know what they’re doing can be caught out. You can read about both their harrowing exploits in their respective columns.

With that in mind, I do hope the publicity surrounding the felling of the Sycamore Gap tree doesn’t inspire any hare-brained delinquents towards similar acts of vandalism. For their own sake.

*At the time of writing