Coins in the Aira Force wishing tree in the English Lake District (photograph by Claire1066/Flickr)
In some places people toss coins into fountains begging for a wish, but in parts of the United Kingdom coins are pressed into trees for the same purpose. These “wishing trees” or “money trees” are a strange fusion of nature and manufactured metal, and represent a tradition dating back centuries.
Much like the clootie wells we featured last week, the money trees are believed to have pagan origins. (The “wish tree” Wikipedia entry actually includes both as iterations of a similar practice, along with alcohol trees, “shoe trees,” and the eclectic “other offerings.”) Many of the money trees reside in the North Yorkshire forests, although they’ve been spotted throughout the Peak and Lake districts and other overgrown corners of the woods that remain wild. According to Wales Online, it’s a deeply rooted belief that “any illness you are suffering will leave you when you force money into the wood.” At the ruins of Saint Maelrubha wishing tree on the Isle Maree in Scotland, there’s a coin dating to 1828, and even Queen Victoria is said to have left her own offering in 1877.
While many of the coin-laden wish trees are fallen trunks and dead stumps, others are living, which can be harmful. There’s at least one report of a wishing oak dying of metal poisoning in the Highlands. Yet after its slow death the remaining wood is still where it fell full of coins, with shiny new pence pieces and euro coins appearing in the few remaining spaces.
Below is a photographic tour of the strangely beautiful wishing trees.
Money in a yew tree near Ingleborough Cave, North Yorkshire (photograph by David Baird)
Coins in a Tree near Janets Cave, North Yorkshire (photograph by Steve Partridge)
Toothache Tree near Beragh, Omagh District Council (photograph by Kenneth Allen)
Money tree in the Peak District (photograph by NH53/Flickr user)
Boncyff Pres Portmeirion Money Stump (photograph by Alan Fryer)
Coins in a tree branch at Malham Cove, Yorkshire (photograph by Tanya Hart)
Worn coins in a log (photograph by Afshin Darian)
Money tree in the Yorkshire Dales (photograph by Barney Moss)
Money tree in Ingleton Falls (photograph by aix_chief/Flickr user)
Coins in a tree stump in Wolfscote Dale, Peak District (photograph by John Cooke)
Worn coins in a tree (photograph by Baasir Gaisawat)
Bolton Abbey money tree in Yorkshire (photograph by Martin F.)
Bent coins in a tree stump (photograph by Antony Oliver)
A log embedded with coins in Malham, Yorkshire (photograph by Andy Hay)
Two Pence (photograph by Joe Jukes)
Coins in a tree near Bolton Abbey, North Yorkshire (photograph by Paul Holloway)
Tree stump with coins in Dovedale, Peak District (photograph by Dan Foy)
Money tree in Durham (photograph by blackham/Flickr user)
50 Euro cents (photograph by Jensbn/Wikimedia)
“Money tree” near Bolton Abbey, North Yorkshire (photograph by Papa November)
Coins in a dead tree in North Yorkshire (photograph by Ian Greig)
Giving to the Wolfscote Dale money tree in the Peak District (photograph by John Cooke)