A ‘CULTURAL phenomenon’ spreading across the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales has begun to prompt walkers to question the craze.

Coins are being hammered into tree stumps on popular countryside paths such as at High Force at Ingleton – on the popular waterfall walk – paths near to Rydal Cave and at Tarn Hows near Coniston.

The idea is similar to trying to get a wish to come true by throwing coins into fountains and down wishing wells.

Keen walker Tony Carroll has suggested the money would be put to better use helping charities and moun-tain rescue teams.

“Surely there are better ways to dispose of loose change,” said Mr Carroll. “Perhaps the ‘wish’ might better be directed if the money was put in a charity collection box or wishing well – at least the small change would have a better chance of being re-cycled.

“Organisations such as Mountain Rescue and Air Ambulance could arrange to ‘harvest’ the money and put it to good use.

“It seems bizarre in this time of cash-flow problems that people are prepared to hammer their hard-earned cash in to old tree trunks.”

But Nick Owen, leader at Langdale and Ambleside Mountain Rescue, said that although he liked the idea, he questioned the ethics of collecting money from such tree trunks.

“I don’t think it would be in keeping with the spirit with which the money was put there,” he said.

“The coins were not put in these trees with raising money for charity in mind so I am not sure about the legal or ethical ramifications about taking it.”

He added that if a tree stump was established with the specific purpose of helping charity it would be a ‘novel’ way of raising cash for much-needed causes.

A spokesperson for the National Trust said: “It is an interesting cultural phenomenon. It can, of course, have a damaging effect on a living tree, so we’d generally disco-urage people from hammering bits of metal into these.

“Once the coins are hammered into the tree it would be extremely difficult to retrieve them, but usually people are frugal and use small change and coppers to make their wish, which is what people have been doing for centuries with wishing wells.”