The Mysterious Heaton Shoe Tree

March 2, 2009
An inexplicably shoe-covered tree in Heaton, Newcastle

An inexplicably shoe-covered tree in Heaton, Newcastle

I was wandering through Armstrong Park in Newcastle the other day, when I came upon an unusual sight. In a small clearing there were three or four trees, each littered with hundreds of pairs of shoes.

A small board in front of the trees, placed there by the council, raised more questions than it answered. It seems that nobody knows how it got started, or what exactly the point is.

I stopped and gawped for a couple of minutes, along with a few passers-by, before capturing a couple of washed out snaps with my iPhone’s camera.

When I got home I did some research and found that there are 26 of these trees in the US alone, and unknown numbers all around the world.

Is it the same madman who travels the planet, planting the seeds of this odd ritual, I wondered, or is there some distant evolutionary reason for this odd behaviour?

I also found that there’s a novel in which the Heaton Shoe Tree(s) plays a central character. It’s called The Taxi Driver’s Daughter, and it was written by the late Julia Darling, who Robyn Hitchcock mentioned was a close friend when I interviewed him a couple of weeks ago.

The tree – and the coincidence – is all weird enough, but the oddest thing of all is that I wore through a pair of shoes last week, and now I want to throw them in the tree…

I still have no idea how it got started, but at least I understand how it keeps going.


Biarritz to Barcelona by Bike, Day Eight

November 10, 2008


By the morning we’d accepted that there was no way to get to Barcelona by bike from where we were. We were within an easy morning’s ride on almost completely flat ground, after traveling hundreds of miles over a mountain range, but there was a motorway in the way.

It turns out that our map was out of date – by several decades – which is how it had managed to sneak up on us. Read the rest of this entry »

Biarritz to Barcelona by Bike, Day Seven

November 10, 2008


Being out in the open, we woke up early, ludicrously early. We were both very sore, tired and grouchy at this point, which could explain how we ended up cycling for 11km on a motorway instead of the road we aimed for. Later we found out that the police are pretty strict about this heinous crime, and tend to hand out 500 Euro fines. Read the rest of this entry »

Biarritz to Barcelona by Bike, Day Six

November 10, 2008


We woke up in Spain, and I had a quick wash in what we later found out was called the “River of Death”. It was actually very refreshing, and not at all poisonous/doomed.

Dave speaks wonderful Spanish, so we set off to find some people to speak Spanish at, and hopefully buy breakfast from, having wolfed down the last of our supplies the night before. We stopped at the first place we saw and ate rabbit for breakfast. Wild rabbit has virtually no meat on it, and we discuss the fact that I once heard (from Stephen Fry, so it must be true) that you die of malnutrition if you only eat rabbit meat. We decide to eat several chocolate bars each, just in case. Read the rest of this entry »

Biarritz to Barcelona by Bike, Day Five

November 10, 2008


I woke up in a comfortable bed and promptly forgot to continue the previous night’s whinging where I sleepily left off, so we had breakfast and set off for the Col d’Aspin – nothing compared to the previous two day’s hurdles, but a mountain nonetheless.

It was an uneventful climb, and the harsh, exposed landscape of the previous day was replaced with a sheltered route through forest. At the summit were a smattering of tourists and cows, the latter of which tried to knock Dave over. We ate, took in the scenery and looked over The Map for what seemed like the thousandth time that week. Read the rest of this entry »