In a small clearing in Heaton Park there are 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, raises more questions than it answers. It seems that nobody knows how it got started, or what exactly the point is.
Not everyone believes the story about Sheriff Babington. It is said that in 1627, Sheriff Babington of Heaton threw his shoes up into the Sycamore to celebrate the birth of his Grandson and since then residents of Heaton have continued this tradition by throwing their shoes up into the tree, whenever they celebrate a special occasion.
Apparently there are 26 of these trees in the USA and unknown numbers all around the world. It seems very strange that we have one in the middle of Newcastle.
The Newcastle shoe tree has been around for a few years now and we guess it must have been the amount of shoes on the original tree that made the local council cut down a few of the most decorated branches leaving it a shadow of it’s former self. In the last couple of years people have been adding shoes to the other trees along that particular pathway making it more of a shoe tree alley.
A nearby sign about the shoe tree says The shoe tree is an old Sycamore, which reaches nearly 40 metres high. There are lots of different stories about how the shoe tree came about. Perhaps you could believe that the shoe tree happened when young people celebrated the completion of their exams by throwing their shoes high into the branches. There are now shoes of all different types, showing the fashion trends of the last 20 years. The shoe tree was made famous by the novel “The Taxi Driver’s Daughter” by Julia Darling.
Sometimes the tree has too many shoes and the numbers have to be controlled. This is because they can affect the health of the tree and too many can be unsafe. There is therefore an annual harvest of shoes so we can protect this lovely tree.
If you want to find the tree here are some clues: Go down the hill into Heaton park from Heaton park rd. The tennis courts are on your right. ice cream shop on your left. take a right at the bottom and walk towards jesmond dene. When the path splits take the ‘Low Road’ and look to the left! voila! the shoe trees!