LYNNE and Geoff Macklin, who are both in their 70s, were in their bedroom at around midday last Friday when they heard a huge crack followed by what felt like a bomb hitting their home in Copse Avenue, Heath End.
Having previously expressed concerns over the condition of the huge oak trees overshadowing their property to Waverley Borough Council, they knew straight away what had happened. And they were lucky. Very lucky.
The crown of the tree had crashed through the roof of the bedroom next to their own, while downstairs a limb of the oak had pierced the roof, and another smashed through the window of their kitchen extension.
Shards of glass, blown out by the force of the impact, pierced the walls of their kitchen and living room – showing just how fortunate they were.
“Had my husband been in the kitchen at the time, I’m sure I would now be a widow,” said Lynne, still shaken by the episode when speaking to the Herald four days afterwards.
And she still can’t bring herself to look in the upstairs bedroom, where a large 1x1 metre hole remains in the ceiling.
“I was shaking,” said Lynne, “and I’m not a shaking kind of person!”
The couple were full of praise for the “brilliant” fire service, who arrived within an hour of being called despite the 80mph winds outside, and made their home safe – with one firefighter telling them it was the “worst tree damage he had ever seen”.
They were also grateful to a local plumber, who quickly arrived to turn off their gas supply and lent them a number of electric heaters, and their caring neighbours and family.
Their insurer LV has also been supportive, they said, and has arranged for a ‘tin hat’ scaffolding to be erected over their home pending remedial work. The couple were also offered the chance to move into a hotel, but opted to remain in a “sanctuary” at the front of their home, which is adapted to Lynne’s care needs.
Lynne and Geoff have lived in their home in Copse Avenue since 1977, and had a previous lucky escape during the storm of 1989 when another large oak crashed down between their house and a neighbour’s.
Since then they and their neighbours have made repeated requests to Waverley to inspect and maintain the trees – doing so most recently just three months ago.
A council spokesperson said: “We have a record of one of the neighbours expressing concerns about a tree behind their property and this was inspected. This inspection was over and above the usual inspections which the council carries out on a frequent basis.
“Of course, damage arising from a severe storm such as we experienced at the end of last week, and over the weekend, can cause even healthy trees to fail or branches to break.
“We have already assisted the family to remove part of the tree to facilitate repairs to the house and the remainder will be removed within the next couple of weeks.”
The council added it is currently dealing with 70-plus cases of tree and branch clearance across the borough.