Wednesday, 16 November 2016

An Exmoor mystery: the wishing trees of Tarr Steps

If you've walked from Tarr Steps along the banks of the Barle river, you will no doubt have spotted a number of tree trunks with coins hammered into them. You might even have added a coin or two yourself.
Seen from a distance, you could almost imagine the trees to be scaly dinosaurs. I guessed that they must be 'wishing trees', but nobody I asked could confirm that, or tell me anything else about them.

One of Exmoor's wishing trees
 Then the other week I spotted a blog post by Elke Koessling-Winzer at Exmoor4All .

She says:  'For centuries and across cultures, people have attributed trees with special powers. In some countries, trees are covered in red ribbons or notes, and throughout the UK, coins play a special role.  One of the money trees can be found near Tarr Steps on Exmoor.
The wishing tree is studded with coins, hammered in by villagers and tourists with the help of stones. People used to believe that sticking a coin into a wishing tree would pass an illness to the tree – and onto the person who pulled the coin out again.  The custom goes back to the beginning of the 18th century; one of them, an oak wish tree in the Scottish Highlands, gained fame when Queen Victoria visited it in 1877.

So far we have been unable to find out how old the wishing tree is at Tarr Steps...'

Some of the coins do look as if they've been there for a very long time. If anybody knows more about this rather intriguing mystery, please tell.

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