Yesterday, my eldest daughter and I conquered Snowdon despite the heat. After a near-complete walk to the summit via the Watkin Path a few months ago during which we discovered the Gladstone Rock, I was on the lookout for something Archaeodeath-worthy.
En route, just up-slope from the Halfway House, we encountered an example of a widespread aspect of present-day votive practice: a coin-post. Every centimetre of the surface is covered by coins. Moreover, as the wood erodes from the top, the coins are loosened and are thus falling out. Depositional practices are augmenting and subsequently exuding from this post.
Now I realise it would have made sense if I had previously posted about coin-trees, which have been a particular focus of contemporary archaeological research by Dr Ceri Houlbrook. In short, for reasons that are unclear or multiple, people at country parks and popular walks are increasingly selecting out prominent living trees, but seemingly more often fallen trees and hammering/pressing coins into them. In some cases, coin-trees extend to multiple trunks in close proximity. You’ll have to wait for a future blog about the other coin trees I’ve encountered: at Bolton Abbey, the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, and Ambleside.
The coins can be modern or old, many are ‘silver’ (nickel) coins, not simply 1p or 2p pieces. They can be British, or they can be foreign, the latter articulating the long-distance connections of those visiting the landscape as tourists. The result, after some time (months, years), is a metallic bark afforded to the tree, a sparkling armour in the sun, different to touch and to explore from a standard tree. More than graffiti, the coin-tree augments and transforms the tree, whether living or dead.
Returning to Snowdon, the transference of the coin-tree practice to a treeless landscape is distinctive and actually somewhat uncanny. In a landscape created by sheep and recreation, the coin-post is a solitary wooden marker beside the well-trodden path to the summit of Snowdon from the lakeside resort of Llanberis. A single post affords limited space to add coins: the result is smaller, vertical and more modest than the coin trees I’ve seen elsewhere.
As stated, it is not an arbitrary position, but halfway up/down the Llanberis-Snowdon summit trail and thus near a clear position to rest and repose.
The coins superficially all appear British, although I didn’t have a chance to explore in detail. I noticed one that looked like a blue plastic token (a chip?) added to the top. A purple ribbon has been tied to the barbed wire that encircles the top of the post.
I understand there are other coin-posts up other routes ascending Snowdon: a modern votive dimension of touristic and walking landscapes.