When is a tree not a tree?

A remarkable discovery was made earlier this week during some annual maintenance in the woodland north of Lollards Pits known as Sodden Covert.

Four trees were scheduled to be felled this week as part of our woodland management programme in conjunction with the E.N. Viro Mint Agency*. The first two trees, both Ash were brought down without incident, but the third tree, a Lime revealed a startling image of what looks to be a female woman!


These markings, made by the moisture within the tree, appear to show the haunted face of a young woman with a fine head of curly hair. Whilst the facial features are quite indistinct, eyes, nose and lips can be easily identified.

The image lasted only for two days before fading and blurring until the face was just a darker area on the cut surface.

As you would imagine, there has been some speculation as to what this may mean and indeed, who is it? The Witches Teat was buzzing with theories and conjecture on Wednesday evening, as regulars (and not-so-regulars!) debated this incredible occurrence.

Currently there are two main suspects as to the identity of the ‘tree girl’ as she was often referred to. Firstly, suggested by Amner Pardow, was that this was the face of Martha Bright, the woman at the centre of the Soddenham witch trial.

As there are no records of what any of the unfortunate women looked like, much emphasis was placed on the reasoning. Anmer, a veritable fount of local wisdom, suggested that the figure was not surrounded by hair, but by smoke, and the face shows disfigurement as if burnt. The left eye is staring out accusingly at those who had colluded with Hopkins and Stearne.

soddenham-Dorothy-FooteSecondly, Unwin S. Schreiber made the case that it was Mary Foote, the 12 year old daughter of Annie Foote, both of whom were also burned on that fateful day in 1647. Unwin, well-known for his scholarly bent and rigorous research retreated back to his caravelle to find something to support his claim and returned later with this photograph:

This was a photograph of his former mother-in-law Dorothy Foote, whom he claims to have all the classic Foote features; thick black curly hair, slight eyesight misalignment and firm, proud lips. He then proceeded to have us view the image whilst squinting in order to blur the photograph. After a while many people were in agreement with Mr. Schreiber. We have had the image blurred and superimposed upon a tree stump in order to support his theory:


Well, what do you think? Do you agree with Anmer or Unwin? Or do you have a theory of your own? We would love to hear from you – a bottle of Witches Brew for the best suggestion!

*Mr. Mint wishes it to be known that his tree felling business is in no way connected to or affiliated with The Environment Agency, who are currently pursuing a legal challenge regarding his company name.


3 thoughts on “When is a tree not a tree?

  1. A fascinating article, indeed.
    Interestingly, the figure is not dissimilar to Edvard Munch’s famed painting of The Madonna which, incidentally, was displayed in Berlin in 1893 in the boulevard called ‘Unter den Linden’. This translates to Under the Linden’s, Linden being an alternative name for the Lime Tree, the species which, as you state, the figure appeared.
    Now, I’m not suggesting that Lime Trees, as a species, are capable of retaining memory in some sort of Jungian ‘collective unconsciousness’ sort of a way, but it does make you think. And of course, Jung himself stated in his early work ‘Psychology of The Unconscious’, that Linden Trees characterised the Mother symbol. So, perhaps what we have in your tree is an image of the Primal Goddess herself. Or perhaps, just a bit of spalting.
    All the best to all in your fair village.

  2. Oh Jung and his unconscious! He started boring me when I realised about his treatment of the Spielding and Wolf women (besides Emma). Perhaps the image is of Spielding – she had to go somewhere!

    Anyway, I thought you’d be interested in another Soddenham, used to be part of Morton-in-Marsh in Cotswold, Gloucestershire. Here’s a link to a Farmers Magazine of the area: https://archive.org/stream/farmersmagazine34473lond/farmersmagazine34473lond_djvu.txt
    It boasts of a cart mare to be sold and highly commended by a J Timms, of Soddenham, Moreton-in-the-Marsh, back in July,1873.
    The whole magazine makes absolutely fascinating reading!

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