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The 'Magician of the North' and Rothbury FC - what tales this magnificent Sycamore could tell you!

Updated: Jul 4, 2022

This is the wonderful sycamore tree at Armstrong Park. This tree must have many a tale to tell; not only about the Armstrongs but also about Rothbury football.

DISCLAIMER: If you are reading this whilst following the tree trail - please be very aware that it is not very pedestrian-friendly to get to the football ground. You need to take very great care. It might be best to actually drive and park in the car park for viewing this tree.

Lord Armstrong, in 1863, at the age of 53, decided to build an astonishing country home with the most magnificent grounds, here in Rothbury. He had holidayed here as a child, and like the rest of us, loved the place.

This grand old tree might well recall with alarm, the terrific blasting noises, the ground tremors, and the immense dust that rose to the sky when humans began dynamiting the land to create the crag on which Lord Armstrong built his house; Cragside. Perhaps it wept for the death of William Burn, the quarryman, who was tragically crushed to death during the excavations. Chronology | Rothbury This magnificent house, was the very first house in the world to be lit by hydroelectricity.

Here is a link to John Homer's haunting song about Armstrong: 'A Simple Man', The song will be part of the tree app for this tree, and you can listen to the song on this website, if you go to the Music and Video tab in the menu.

But back to this superb sycamore, then aged about 30, might also recount Lady Armstrong’s part in the design and construction of the gardens and landscape, and I am sure must have rejoiced at the planting of seven million trees! Many of these trees would go on to grow much taller than our glorious sycamore. One of them is itself very famous, as it is the tallest Scots Pine in Britain – this giant can see far over our sycamore’s crown; the last time it was measured it reached over 40m high. In comparison, our sycamore is a mere 25m tall. Cragside Scots pine tree is 'tallest of its kind' in UK - BBC News

Picture credit: Paul Kingston - the tallest Scots Pine at 40m tall.

Besides planting so many carbon-capturing trees, we can safely say that Lord Armstrong was an environmentalist of his time, advocating the use of water and solar power over 150 years ago.

However, if our stunning sycamore tree could talk, it may well also choose to recall some different stories. Looking towards Knocklaw, it would have watched with interest Rothbury Football Club (founded in 1876) move to the stunning ground at Armstrong Park, in the 1940s.

Picture courtesy of RFC

"Rothbury Football Club is based at Armstrong Park, a picturesque sports ground in the heart of Northumberland. It is the perfect setting for free-flowing football.

Situated on the northern bank of the fabled river Coquet and overlooking the famous Cragside estate of Victorian industrial titan Baron William Armstrong, the pitch sits in a natural amphitheater of hills and woodlands and offers stunning panoramic views of historic countryside.

It is arguably one of the finest places to play football – or spend a Saturday afternoon as a spectator – in north east England." Photograph and text courtesy of RFC website.

Our tree can be seen here, in the middle of two other sycamores, 'watching' the spectacle of the firefighters watering the turf.

Firefighters watering the pitch c.1950s

Later, I am sure it would have been cheering on the great Bobby Charlton when he played at Rothbury for Northumberland County Juniors. And what about the time Chris Waddle played at Rothbury, on the visiting team side of Belford? But mostly, I expect the mighty sycamore enjoyed, and continues to love, watching the young, and older, people of Rothbury exercising and enjoying themselves, gaining skills and comradeship, in what must surely be one of the most beautiful pitches in the country.

The Gazette published my article about this tree, and about the idea of the Tree Warden Scheme:

It truly is a magnificent tree, which has witnessed so many changes in its long life. Let us hope that it continues to remain in such good health, for many more years to come.

Veteran Tree, Maple, Measuring 470cm@1.5M. Our Veteran Sycamore provides a perfect habitat for flora and fauna alike. If you look closely, you can see a young hawthorn growing in a branch junction. There are snails attached to the bottom of the trunk. This beauty has moss and significant burring - it truly is an impressive landscape tree. You can find more details on the Northumbria Veteran Tree Map: Northumbria Veteran Tree Project – Page 27 – Identifying veteran, heritage and notable trees across the regions of Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland

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