“Random encounters with the unusual” is a repository for the oddities that me and Mrs J have encountered on our travels, which we find interesting or amusing in some way. Have a look, maybe you will find something interesting or amusing herein.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

The Lydford Coin Tree

The pictures below were taken in Lydford Gorge in Devon, which is a beauty spot that is owned and managed by the National Trust.

Whilst following the footpath that loops around the gorge, my nephew spotted a rather interesting log by the side of the river. Looking at the log, it seems that numerous visitors over the years have hammered coins into the log until the surface of the log has been almost entirely coated by bent coins.

From what I could tell from a cursory inspection, all of the coins (mostly British but there were a few European coins) seem to be modern post-decimalisation coins, so I would suspect that this coin log is a fairly modern creation and probably no early than 1970.

It seems that the common explanation for people pushing coins into logs/trees is that they act as a form of "wishing tree", where people put the coin into the tree in a ritualistic offering in exchange for having a wish granted. There also seems to be some folklore suggesting that people once believed that a person suffering from an illness could hammer a coin into a tree trunk and the tree would take the illness away. And conversely, if someone removed the coin from the tree that they themselves would become ill.

I suspect however that the truth is less exciting and it is more a case of "monkey see, monkey do", and that people who see a coin tree/log just decide (without much thought) to copy what previous visitors have done and hammer their own coin in. This was certainly the reaction of my wife and nephews, who decided to find some low denomination coins and "have a go".

Whatever the basis of fact, I had my own attempt to create some folklore. During the course of our walk around the gorge I managed to convince my nephews that hillbillies lived in the gorge and that they abducted naughty children. On finding the log I explained it away to my nephews as a "hillbilly bank" - well even hillbillies need to keep their money somewhere!

The Lydford Coin Tree
The Lydford Coin Tree
Coin close up.
Coin close up.
The White Lady waterfall in the gorge.
Pictures, Devon (August 2013).

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