Growth of 'mystery' wishing trees in Portmeirion

image captionThe first tree was felled four years ago and quickly filled up with coins

Staff at a holiday attraction in Gwynedd say they had to turn detective after hundreds of coins were stuck into a tree trunk.

The tree was felled to widen a path at Italianate village Portmeirion four years ago, and within months was full of (mostly) 2p coins.

Now there are seven tree trunks sporting similar decorations.

Estate manager, Meurig Jones, says he believes they are being used as 'wishing trees'.

Founded in 1925, and taking nearly 50 years to complete, Portmeirion was a homage to Sir Clough Williams-Ellis' love of the Italian Riviera.

It incorporates the grounds of a 12th Century castle.

The village was the backdrop for Patrick McGoohan in both The Prisoner and Danger Man, as well as providing the setting for episodes of Doctor Who, Citizen Smith and countless films, many of which use it as an alternative to filming on location in Italy.

Among the stars to say Portmeirion has influenced their work are Noel Coward, Sir Paul McCartney, Frank Lloyd Wright, Gregory Peck, Ingrid Bergman and Jools Holland.

The estate's main water feature is also used as a 'wishing well' with all money raised going towards the RNLI.

image captionPortmeirion was a homage to Sir Clough Williams-Ellis' love of the Italian Riviera

"We had no idea why it was being done when we first noticed the tree trunk was being filled with coins," said Mr Jones.

"I did some detective work and discovered that trees were sometimes used as "wishing trees" .

"In Britain it dates back to the 1700s - there is one tree in Scotland somewhere which apparently has a florin stuck into it," he added.

Mr Jones said the idea was a person suffering from an illness could stick a coin into a tree so that the tree took the illness away.

"If someone then takes the coin out though, it's said they then become ill," he added.

Four years after the first tree was decorated seven stumps are sporting coins.

"It's not just one type of tree either, it's beech, holly and some of the stumps are quite hard so it takes some time for people to knock the coins in," he said.

"We haven't publicised it at all, none of the trees have been cut down deliberately, it's just happened, it's quite amazing really," he added.

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