This tree is also known as the “Robin Hood Tree” thanks to the 1991 film “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves“. It is located at the “Sycamore gap” of Hadrian’s Wall that began being built around 122 A.D. and spans 73km (117km) across northern England.
Rather than a physical border or limitation, Hadrian’s Wall (and later the Antonine Wall) shows how far Rome and its cultural empire had a historical influence on the history of England for from 43-410 AD. Similarly, the Wall is located anywhere from 1 to 110 kilometers (0.6-68 miles) from the Scottish border, but ever since the Treaty of Union of 1706, Scotland and England have been part of the Kingdom of Great Britain which has now evolved into the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
In other words, Rome and London shared a cultural history for over 300 years in the same way that Scotland and England have shared one for over 300 years. To be British essentially means to have a Roman past, but after the United Kingdom’s referendum on 23 June 2016 to leave the European Union, the integrity and relevance of both the European Union and the United Kingdom seem to be under question.
But perhaps this tree can serve as a symbol of hope and unity to remind us that walls and division rarely stand the test of time.
Although it is often portrayed as an economic union that is focused on free trade, a common currency, and a customs union, it is imperative to recall that “the European Union is set up with the aim of ending the frequent and bloody wars between neighbours, which culminated in the Second World War.“
In other words, the Union is ultimately not about money but about people.
Despite the interconnected economies of all the Members of the EU, the United Kingdom still has its own currency and can therefore make use of other financial methods and fiscal policies that are not available to members of the euro. It is for this reason that leaving the European Union cannot be seen as a matter of economics but rather as a political division of a people. The citizens’ initiative for which this website was created is not directed towards economic or financial policies, but rather towards a protection of rights and the guaranteed union of a people.
Throughout the history of Europe, the Italian peninsula, France, Germany and the British have all held their own empires. But it is time to forget the age of empires and push the era of unity. The EU’s main purpose was to create a common European identity, but the history of Rome, England and Scotland shows that this is no easy feat. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but neither was Great Britain. So if the 300 years that united Rome-London, and the 300 years that have united England and Scotland can be forgotten in one day after a referendum, then perhaps the peoples of Europe and the EU need a bit more than 60 years to develop a common history.
This is not a call to forget our individual or national histories, it is a plea to remember that every individual and every nation has a unique history and therefore everyone can make valuable contributions if and when we choose to unite and work together towards a common goal. The first goal is to ensure that the European Union and European Citizenship are protected at all costs because they are the glue that holds European nations together as good neighbors.
So once again “Why the Tree?”
This tree was voted “England’s Tree of the Year” in 2016. In that same year, 53.4% of voters in England elected to Leave the EU while 62% of Scottish voters elected to Remain part of the Union. Before the mutual histories of England, Scotland and the rest of Europe begin a process of division, perhaps the image of this living tree next to the remnants of a mere wall will remind us that the survival and well-being of living things is more important than the duration of brick walls, trade barriers or national borders.
Some believe that “good fences make good neighbours”. Others believe that “the grass is always greener on the other side”. Perhaps fences are the reason why we can’t appreciate each other’s grass properly, perhaps not. But Hadrian’s Wall and the Robin Hood Tree remind us that fences and walls cannot separate men and women who choose to be united, and that no matter which grass is greener, we produce more value and gain more pride by nurturing a mutual tree between us and sharing the fruit of our labours.