Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

Shoe-tree in Maidenhead

Norway maple, Acer plantanoides, beside the skate park in Kidwells Park, Maidenhead, Berkshire, has numerous pairs of trainers hanging from its branches.  Unusually, these all seem to be of the same age, same size, and all worn to the same extent; they appear to be newish looking, rather than much worn.  Thus it seems that all the shoes were placed in the tree on one occasion, rather than being added over several months or years.

Any comments would be much appreciated –


1.  The fact that the tree is beside a skate park could explain the weird collection of worn out trainers.  Shoes don’t last long when skating.  Shoe-flinging is a common tradition in the U.S. among runners; skaters too, apparently.                               Alternatively, there is a sycamore [Acer pseudoplatanus] in Newcastle (Armstrong Park) that is heavy with shoes left by young people celebrating the completion of their exams [Claudia Cola, London, December 2022].

2.  Tree Dressing Day is held on the first weekend in December, we did this for years with various groups just to raise awarenesss of trees – make people stop and notice them.  Could this be a tree dressing? [Faith Moulin, Yatton, Somerset, December 2022].  Do people still celebrate Tree Dressing Day?  It’s been some years since any dressed trees have been seen in London.

3.  This is a rite of passage, old shoes are thrown in the tree when new ones are bought, started in New York or Los Angeles, on telegraph-pole lines, I think; we have a few here in the UK near skate parks! [Tom Hodder, Clevedon, Somerset, December 2022].

4.  There is a similar tree in Buxton, Derbyshire.  Sara Hannant in her Mummers, Maypoles & Milkmaids (2011), notes that ‘Buxton teenagers created the Shoe Tree in the summer of 2006 by throwing pairs of shoes, tied together by their laces, into the highest branches of the tree’ [Richard Bradley II, Sheffield, December 2022].

Photographed 11 December 2022.

Corrected 30 August 2023.

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