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29 October 2014

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    The shoe tree near Stokenchurch.
    The shoe tree near Stokenchurch.

    Shoe tree may help fertility?!

    The Chilterns Woodlands Project are using lottery money to discover why shoes are being thrown at a tree. The Ash, which is between Stokenchurch and Studley Green, already has shoes hanging from its branches and some suggest it may aid fertility.

    Special Trees and Woodland Project

    Thanks to a grant of £268,000 awarded by the Heritage Lottery Fund to the Chiltern Woodlands Project, the Chilterns’ community has the opportunity to explore, understand and record special trees and historic local woods.

    There are lots of reasons why a tree might be classed as special. It maybe big or old, planted to celebrate an event or even be an odd shape! There maybe a special tree on your village green, in your school grounds or local park, or on your favourite country walk.

    You might consider a woodland special if it contains a particular species, or has historical, cultural or landscape significance.

    Liz Manley, project manager is looking for volunteers to collect data, oral history and photographs relating to special trees and woods so they can be managed sensitively and sustainably. To volunteer please contact Liz at the Chiltern Woodlands Project
    Tel 01844 355525 or Email

    The history of a mysterious tree that people hang shoes from is being researched by the Chilterns Woodlands Project.

    A team of volunteers where formed to trace the story behind the "shoe tree" with the aim of collecting pictures, records and memories from people in nearby villages.

    There are varying beliefs where the idea for the "shoe tree" came from. Some believe  the practice has pagan origins and has been carried on by a handful of people.

    But another more sinister explanation is that the shoes were thrown up as a ritual in witchcraft to put a hex on an unfortunate individual.

    Martyn Coote from BBC Three Counties Buckinghamshire Breakfast Show spoke to Liz Manley, the project manager for Chilterns Woodland Project to find out more.

    What on earth is this all about?

    Liz: We're not quite sure! At the Chiltern Woodland Project we've been lucky enough to get some funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to manage a project called 'special trees and woods of the Chilterns'.  It is going to run for three and half years and we want to record special trees and woods throughout the Chilterns natural area.

    Many pairs of shoes are already in the tree.
    Many pairs of shoes are already in the tree.

    Someone has told us this tree is special, it is quite an oddity in the local area and we don't know much about it other than people throw their shoes into it.  So we would quite like to get in touch with someone who has done that and can tell us why they did it. 

    There has been one suggestion that a newly married couple each tie a shoe of theirs together and then throw the pair into the tree for good luck or possibly for good luck in fertility, but that is all we know at the moment.

    So you don't know if you have to throw the shoes over the tree, into the tree or why?

    Liz: We just don't know but there are lots of shoes hanging in the tree at the moment and we also want to know about special trees and commemorative trees, really old trees or odd shapes throughout the Chilterns. 

    "We would quite like to get in touch with someone who has done that and can tell us why they did it. "
    Liz Manley, The Special Trees and Woods Project.

    Someone did ring me to say there was another shoe tree in Thame, so we might go and look at that one to see what that is like.

    Do we know how old this custom is and whether it works?

    Liz: No not until people get in touch with us what they have been up to, so we are quite curious to find out.

    Hopefully people will really like this project, it encompasses local history, heritage and the environment.  We want to record the trees and gather supporting information.

    What kind of tree is this that we are meant to throw shoes at?

    Liz: I think it is a little ash tree, we don't know whether that is significant or not but we would like to hear about  named trees. There might be a named tree on your village green or in your park or in your local area that you think is special. 

    Nearby there is a named oak called Queen Elizabeth's oak because Queen Elizabeth the first was suppose to have sat beneath it.  I believe that then it was already a very big ancient oak and now it is even older obviously, and all hollow which is very good for wildlife, and a great shape.

    last updated: 06/04/06
    Have Your Say
    Do you know why the shoes are thrown at this tree? Have you ever thrown your shoes at the tree? Would you throw your shoes if it did aid fertility?
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    The BBC reserves the right to edit comments submitted.

    Seriously, 286k .. in the midst of a credit crunch, peopel loosing homes all over the country, and they investigate a stopid tree ... what is worse, is that the first tree got cut down a few years ago as it was considered dangerous .. and so this second tree started sprouting shoes .. sooo stupid!

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