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Interactive coin run installed at Aira Force to help fund red squirrel conservation work

Aira Force waterfall. National Trust Images/ John Malley

A nature-friendly interactive coin run is now in place at the National Trust’s Aira Force in Ullswater, with the money raised going towards red squirrel conservation.

In the first week at Aira Force, the coin run has collected £50 which will go towards much needed red squirrel conservation. This amount of money would pay for around 20kg of nuts to supplement the squirrels’ natural food source.

A tree trunk hammered with coins at Aira force. National Trust Images/ Paul Harris

The run has replaced a longstanding tree trunk on the site, which had been hammered with coins by visitors. The beech tree in question was felled over 15 years ago in the grounds of the National Trust’s Aira Force as it was ruled to be unstable. The main trunk was left in place, intended as a habitat for wildlife. Over the years, people began to knock coins into the tree and it affectionately became known as the ‘money tree’.

With the aim of decreasing the chances of decay from the coins, the team have decided to create an alternative to the Aira Force ‘money tree’. Nic Fish, a Ranger at Aira Force, said: “A group of volunteers on a working holiday helped us to remove coins from the tree so that we could saw it up and take it away. The ‘money tree’ had become a bit of an attraction, and people liked seeing it, so we then had to think of an alternative to put in its place.”

The Aira Force coin run. National Trust Images

Money trees, or wish trees as they are otherwise known, have become a popular tradition across the Lake District, with coins usually hammered into fallen, or felled, trunks. However, Rangers at Aira Force say coins have also been pressed into live trees and finger posts, damaging the trees’ outer defences against decay.

“During some winter storms this year, a Norway Spruce was blown down. This left us with a huge tree trunk, and the problem of how to remove it from Aira Force. A plan was put in place to turn a section of the trunk into a coin run so that people could drop their coins into it, and the money could then be collected to help fund red squirrel conservation. We hope that this will encourage less people to hammer coins into trees”

Once a popular sight in England and across the UK, and the UK’s only native squirrel species, the red squirrel is now suffering a major decline. Since the introduction of the North American grey squirrel in the 1870’s, numbers of red squirrels have dropped from around three and a half million to an estimated 120,000. It’s thought that there are around 15,000 red squirrels in England, and happily some of those call Aira Force their home.

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