'Sacrilege' as Major Oak tree in Sherwood Forest vandalised
Vandals have damaged the world-famous 1,000-year-old Major Oak tree in Sherwood Forest – said to be the place where Robin Hood sheltered.
Sick yobs have caused a large three-foot chunk of bark to fall off the iconic tree, where the legendary outlaw is fabled to have met his "merry men".
The RSPB, which runs part of the Sherwood Forest Nature Reserve, said that fibreglass protection on the iconic tree has also been damaged.
It is thought the damage was caused by someone climbing on the tree - despite access to it being prohibited for more than 40 years.
One of the best known tales of English folklore, legend states that heroic Robin Hood and his band of outlaws sought shelter underneath the famed pedunculate oak.
Nottinghamshire's "official" Robin Hood, Ade Andrews, branded the vandalism "disgraceful".
Ade, who has portrayed the legendary outlaw for more than 20 years in cultural heritage tours of the county, said: "These trees are very special, they are iconic symbols of Nottingham and of England.
"The Major Oak is a national treasure, for it to be damaged like this is cultural vandalism. It's sacrilege, it really is.
"Legend tells us that it was the meeting place of Robin Hood and his merry men, it is the world's most famous tree, and for people to abuse it in such a way is disgraceful."
Ade, who specialises in educational entertainment and character-led heritage tours, was told of the news on Tuesday.
He added: "I was very saddened to hear the news of the damage.
"I can only think that some very sad individuals have climbed over the fence and damaged the tree either on purpose or by climbing on it.
"It is not only have damaged the the tree itself that is shocking, but it is home to more than 1,000 species of wildlife.
"I think it tells us where society is if that is something that people thought was ok to do."
An estimated 350,000 tourists visit Sherwood Forest each year to see the fabled oak tree, which was reputed to have sheltered Robin Hood and his merry men.
Completely hollow inside, it has a hole in the trunk which visitors used to climb inside.
However, the practice was stopped and the area around the tree’s roots fenced in the 1970s as conservationists recognised the damage this was causing the ancient tree.
The famous forest is also a National Nature Reserve and has some of the highest natural protections in Europe.
Gemma Howarth, the RSPB’s site manager, said it was "heartbreaking" to find the damage while she was doing a regular check of the site during lockdown.
She said: "The Major Oak is a massively important part of our national heritage both in terms of our natural world and the Robin Hood legend which brings so many people to Sherwood from around the world.
“This is an area heavily reliant on tourism for our local and regional economy – the vast majority of people who visit the area want to come and see the Major Oak."
Gemma said she believes the damage was caused by somebody trying to get inside the tree during lockdown when the forest was quiet.
But she added: "No-one should have been near it in the first place.
“This fantastic tree isn’t something we can just regrow in our lifetimes, or even that of our grandchildren – it has survived a thousand years of history and as its custodians, we want it to be here for many more years to come.
“It’s heart-breaking to see it being damaged, especially at a time when nature had been helping so many people by providing interest and enjoyment during lockdown.
"We’d always urge anyone who sees any behaviour like this to get in touch immediately.